Pentagon chief seeks more help in anti-IS fight

Brussels (AFP) – US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday sought more assist from dozens of defence ministers from the US-led coalition against Islamic State jihadists, as Russia mounts its own air campaign in Syria.

More than 18 months after the United States & the quickly assembled alliance began bombing IS targets, Carter is hoping renewed alarm over terror attacks around the globe & the jihadists' growing footprint in Libya will lead to greater military & financial commitments from partners at a meeting in Brussels.

He has taken a two-pronged approach to winning support, using a combination of private diplomacy & public shaming, accusing some unspecified members of the 66-nation coalition of doing "nothing at all" to assist the fight.

p>Speaking at NATO headquarters on Thursday ahead of the coalition meeting, Carter said the "the capabilities that will be required to carry out the campaign plans… will be clearly delineated" to defence ministers.

"We will be sharing with them the operational campaign plan for the defeat of ISIL… which we need to obtain done as shortly as possible," Carter said.

Thursday's meeting in the NATO headquarters will see Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, who is overseeing the anti-IS effort, donate an overview of the situation on the ground.

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The US-led coalition against Islamic State jihadists has carried out more than 10,000 air strikes in …

A senior US defence official said Washington is looking not just for pledges of military support & cash, yet ideas too.

"The secretary will, frankly, donate a call to his fellow ministers to be creative, to speak up to contribute to the thought leadership in the campaign," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There's no monopoly on satisfactory ideas."

The assessment comes after the coalition has carried out more than 10,000 air strikes in Iraq & Syria at a cost to the United States of nearly $6 billion (5.2 billion euros).

The effort has dealt some significant blows to the jihadists: the Pentagon estimates IS has lost approximately 40 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq, & approximately 10 percent of the land it claimed in Syria.

– Bearing fruit –

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Russian warplanes have been conducting air strikes against Islamic State jihadists & other groups  …

But despite losing control of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, assaults to recapture key IS-held Mosul & Raqa in Syria are still many months away, & thousands of IS fighters have streamed into Libya.

Russia is carrying out its own air campaign, which Moscow insists is moreover targeting IS, yet which the West says is in fact aimed at rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.

His efforts to solicit broader commitments appear to be bearing some fruit. Canada, for instance, announced Monday it would triple the number of special forces training Kurdish militia in northern Iraq to approximately 210.

And Slovenia has said it would start sending military trainers to work with local forces trying to push back the IS group.

"There are a number of other (countries) who are in the final throes of trying to figure out if they can moreover make that leap," the official said, noting that several other nations are "very seriously" considering additional contributions, yet first need parliamentary approval.

In all, 27 coalition members who have contributed militarily to the 18-month fight will join Carter's delegation in Brussels. Another 21 coalition countries are attending as observers.

The summit comes at the conclusion of a two-day meeting for NATO defence ministers that focused on new commitments to boost the alliance's presence along eastern Europe & act as a deterrent against aggression from Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Additionally, Carter said NATO was willing to support a German, Greek & Turkish request for assist in monitoring Turkey's Aegean Sea coast for migrant smugglers ferrying refugees, mostly fleeing the Syrian conflict.

US International NewsPolitics & GovernmentAshton Carter

Source: “AFP”

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