A US-led 68-nation alliance says it remains “firmly united” in its resolution to wipe out the militant group. A meeting of the coalition in Washington was overshadowed by an attack in London and civilian deaths in Syria.
The US-led coalition that is fighting the extremist “Islamic State” (IS) group has said it is determined to continue its efforts to “eliminate this global threat and overcome its false, destructive narrative.”
After a meeting in the US capital, Washington, DC, to review its campaign, the coalition on Wednesday called for “an integrated, multidimensional and comprehensive approach” to combating the group, which has taken over large tracts of land in Syria and Iraq, and also instigated acts of international terrorism.
The statement underlined the allies’ “determination to intensify and accelerate … efforts to eliminate ISIS” in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, referring to the terrorist group with another acronym. The delegates also praised Iraqi forces for ridding more than 60 percent of Iraq of the terrorists, and said they were “gratified” that the group had lost more than one-third of the territory it once controlled there.
Hunting down the leader
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opened the Washington meeting with a pledge to hunt down IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and said that defeating the extremist group was the US’ number one goal in the region.
“Nearly all of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s deputies are now dead, including the mastermind behind the attacks in Brussels, Paris and elsewhere,” Tillerson said. “It is only a matter of time before Baghdadi himself meets this same fate.”
A US defense official this month told reporters that Baghdadi had fled the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which is in the process of being recaptured by Iraqi forces, and was no longer in a position to command his fighters on a day-to-day basis.
Tillerson also urged coalition members to step up their military and financial contributions to the fight, and toward efforts to stabilize Iraq and Syria once the extremist group has been removed.
The coalition has the goal of helping displaced people to return home, and is working with local political leaders to provide stability. Tillerson said the strategy was working well in Iraq, adding that the alliance was looking at a similar approach in Syria.
The meeting in Washington was overshadowed by reports that a suspected coalition airstrike had killed 33 civilians at a school near the northern Syrian IS stronghold of Raqqa that was being used as a shelter for displaced people. The Pentagon has promised to investigate whether US-led forces were responsible for the killings.
During the meeting, news also came in about an attack outside the British parliament that police have attributed to “Islamist-related terrorism.” Three people and the assailant were killed and 40 others injured in the attack.
Analysts fear an increase in terrorist attacks by the “Islamic State” group in the West as it comes under increased pressure in its strongholds in the Middle East.
Coalition members at Wednesday’s meeting vowed to work to prevent fleeing IS fighters from spreading instability or setting up a propaganda base online.