Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is hosting a meeting of the 68-member US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). The Washington DC summit is the first meeting of the full coalition since December 2014.
President Donald Trump promised to “demolish and destroy” IS, Tillerson told the coalition envoys in his opening remarks. “That’s what we’re going to do.”
The top US diplomat said the coalition had made significant progress against the terrorist group, with the flow of foreign fighters into the region down by 90 percent and IS online content down by 75 percent. Turkey has pushed IS back from the border in Operation Euphrates Shield, while in Iraq, government forces and Kurdish Peshmerga are working together to liberate Mosul.
“All of [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi’s deputies are now dead,” Tillerson said, referring to the leader of the self-proclaimed caliphate. “It’s only a matter of time before Baghdadi himself meets the same fate.”
Defeating the terrorist group is the “number one US goal in the region,” Tillerson said, adding that the coalition will focus on “regional elimination of ISIS through military force.”
“As a coalition, we’re not in the business of nation-building or reconstruction,” said Tillerson.
The US is currently providing 75 percent of coalition military resources in support of local forces in Iraq and Syria, the secretary of state said, adding that for humanitarian efforts, the proportion is reversed. While the US will do its part, “circumstances on the ground require more from all of you,” Tillerson said.
Coalition forces will remain on territories claimed by “fraudulent caliphate” to ensure stability, Tillerson said. While he gave no further details, any coalition military presence inside Syria is seen as unacceptable by the government in Damascus, which – unlike Baghdad – did not invite the US-led forces into the country.