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Tillerson: Anti-IS Coalition 'United' in Stopping Terror Group

By Cindy Saine March 22, 2017

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that U.S. policy is to "destroy and demolish" Islamic State, but that this could not happen if allies did not commit adequate funds and resources.

"The success of our mission depends on the continual devotion to our stated objective of defeating this terrorist organization," he said, addressing a meeting in Washington of foreign ministers and senior officials from the Global Coalition to counter Islamic State.

"I am pleased to announce that we have surpassed that total (over $2 billion for 2017) in dollar pledges. Let's fulfill our pledges so we can quickly disperse the funds we need to carry out operations for the rest of the year," he said.

Tillerson also said the anti-IS coaltion "is united in stopping an ISIS resurgence, halting its global ambitions, and discrediting its ideological narrative."

This week is the first full meeting of the 68-nation group since 2014.

The State Department says the goal of the conference is to accelerate international efforts to defeat IS in the remaining areas it holds in Iraq and Syria, and maximize pressure on its branches, affiliates and networks.

Acting spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Monday the coalition is at an important stage of the fight against the terror group.

"First of all, it's an opportunity in the new administration to assess where we are at and what we want do going forward. I don't want to steal any thunder from the secretary, but I think he will come with new ideas and approaches and a new way of looking at how to defeat ISIS," he said, using another acronym for IS.

The strategy session is giving Tillerson, the former Exxon CEO, the chance to meet face to face with U.S. allies, said Michael O'Hanlon.

"If there are any fresh policy ideas all the better but it's not even necessary, it's not even obligatory for that in a first session because people need to get to know each other as well and of course Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump, these are not people who are all that well known to the broader foreign policy or national security community certainly not at a personal level," he said.

O'Hanlon said there will be plenty of thorny issues for the coalition partners to discuss.

"If they're Turkey, they got millions of refugees on their soil and no end in sight to the war in Syria. The Western Europeans are still nervous about ISIS fighters coming back home, especially those who came from their countries in the first place to go to the battlefield and coming back and attempting terrorist campaign," he said. "So no one's happy, no one should be happy, we are at a very intermediate stage of this campaign."

Earlier this month, Brett McGurk, the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter Islamic State, said that the now two year long fight against the terror group has reclaimed more than 50,000 square kilometers of territory from the group in Iraq and Syria, and the defeat of the group there is "now in sight."

During the 2016 election campaign, President Donald Trump was critical of then President Barack Obama for what he called a weak fight against IS militants. During his inaugural address in January, Trump promised to eradicate Islamic State from the face of the earth.

Continuing with the Obama-administration created anti-IS coalition may signal that the new administration will continue its predecessor's multilateral approach, at least on this one crucial policy.

Some analysts expect the U.S. to ask Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to contribute more to "burden-sharing" – to help fund reconstruction efforts in war-ravaged Syria.



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