US Pushes for More Support in IS Fight, Big Increases Called Unlikely
by Carla Babb, Nike Ching November 23, 2015
The U.S. has vowed to work with its allies to ramp up efforts to destroy the Islamic State following a string of attacks outside the group's base in Syria and Iraq, but a significant amount of additional aid from European partners is 'unlikely,' a U.S. defense official told VOA.
Vice President Joe Biden delivered a strong message of engagement to diplomatic representatives of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, who gathered Monday for a diplomatic meeting at the State Department.
'Vice President Biden also reconfirmed the unwavering commitment of the United States to work with coalition partners to degrade and destroy this unprecedented terrorist threat,' said State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner.
However, a U.S. defense official, speaking to VOA on the condition of anonymity, said the burden of increasing anti-Islamic State resources in the future would ultimately fall on the U.S., not others.
The White House said there were 59 of the 65 coalition countries represented at the meeting, which was closed to the media. This was the fifth plenary session of coalition ambassadors and senior diplomats.
'There are nearly two dozen nations who have made a military contribution to our counter-ISIL campaign," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Monday. 'There are 15 different nations that have deployed personnel in support of training local forces on the ground in Iraq, and Syrian forces in other countries.'
The U.S.-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (also called IS), which was formed in September 2014, includes countries from Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Among the coalition's multiple lines of efforts are the military campaign against IS, as well as efforts to halt the flow of funds and foreign fighters. Thirty-four countries have arrested foreign fighters or broken up cells and networks, said a senior U.S. official.
'The success of this mission is dependent on 65 nations coming together, recognizing the common interests that they have here, and dedicating significant resources," Earnest said.
'We have an ongoing dialogue with all of our partners,' Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said Monday. 'There have been additional calls.'
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter met with his counterpart from the Netherlands on Monday and will meet French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday.
But the anonymous U.S. defense official said France is doing all it can now with the latest deployment of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
About a quarter of French forces is currently deployed within its own borders to help with post-November 13 security, and other large chunks of its forces are deployed to Africa and elsewhere, according to the official.
Davis told reporters Monday that French airstrikes have increased in the coalition tasking order.
'They will be bringing additional pressure on ISIL targets, especially in Syria,' he said.
Last week, France hit several targets in the Islamic State stronghold Raqqa, Syria. French airstrikes launched Monday from the Charles de Gaulle hit two Islamic State targets in Iraq, according to the French military.
The carrier's presence has tripled French air power in the region, increasing the number of its military planes from 12 to 38.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is laying out his case for the Royal Air Force to bomb Islamic State targets in Syria this week, but many speculate Parliament will try to block his efforts.
Italy, Germany, Turkey
Meanwhile, an effort led by Italy is underway to train Iraqi police forces. Twenty-five nations have joined coordination efforts led by Germany and the UAE to stabilize areas that have been liberated from the Islamic militants.
Germany might commit to increasing its financial commitment to the coalition, but no more is expected from the Germans because they are so entrenched in the refugee crisis, according to Pentagon officials.
As for Turkey, its military will continue to partner with the United States in attacks west of the Euphrates River as long as the U.S. continues to keep Kurdish YPG forces away from that area, according to Soli Özel, an International Relations professor at Kadir Has University in Istanbul.
'That is the tacit understanding," Özel told VOA. 'How long it can hold, whether the cooperation can actually bear fruit, those remain to be seen.'
Turkish ground troops in Syria and Iraq are still not likely, Özel said, even after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told CNN earlier this month that Turkish ground troops could be part of a conversation on coalition strategy.
This multinational effort came a day before President Barack Obama hosts a bilateral meeting with French President Francois Hollande at the White House. France, a member of the coalition, is dealing with the aftermath of the deadly IS terror attack in Paris.
Role, goal of US
Diplomatic efforts have intensified after Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for recent attacks in Paris that killed at least 130 people, deadly suicide bombings in Beirut, and the suspected bombing of a Russian Metrojet in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
The U.S. goal is to suffocate the IS stronghold in Syria and Iraq, while cutting off its global networks, including foreign fighters and financing, said Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, who also attended the meeting.
While trying to strike a balance between security and privacy, McGurk said Washington has been in talks with its European counterparts to implement the so-called Passenger Name Registry. Critics say data collection of flight passenger information suppresses civil liberties and privacy rights.
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