Anti-ISIL front to step up fight in Iraq, Syria

Anti-ISIL front to step up fight in Iraq, Syria

Anti-ISIL front to step up fight in Iraq, Syria

AP photo

The U.S.-led international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has decided to step up its fight, with U.S. officials calling on partners in the coalition to increase intelligence sharing as the militant group morphs to focus on attacks beyond its shrinking self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria. 

“Even as it is loses ground in the Middle East, we know already that they’re going to try to transform themselves into [a] global terrorist organization,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was quoted as saying by Reuters on July 21 after a meeting of defense and foreign affairs chiefs from about 40 nations in the U.S.-led coalition. 

“We talked about the importance of real-time communication between countries, information sharing” about militant suspects, Kerry said. 

He said the issue dominated the afternoon’s discussions, which for the first time included the international police organization Interpol. 

Kerry and other officials suggested that wresting control of ISIL’s major remaining strongholds in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria is “only a matter of time.” 

Brett McGurk, the United States’ envoy to the coalition, told the meeting that the liberation of Mosul “is now in sight.” 

Iraqi Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi said in the same meeting that less than 10 percent of Iraqi territory remains in the hands of ISIL, but battlefield advances have not been matched by better security inside the country.

“Progress in military performance must be paired with progress on the security file,” Obeidi tweeted from Washington. 

At its peak, ISIL had captured somewhere between 30 percent and 40 percent of Iraqi territory. The ground it holds has been drastically reduced, but the militants can still inflict tremendous damage in Iraq’s towns and cities. 

The suicide bombing in central Baghdad earlier this month, which killed at least 292 in one of the worst such attacks since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, was a “stark example” of that failure, he said. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack. 

The meetings were meant as a show of unity in the coalition, whose members have sometimes differed on strategy. But last weekend’s failed coup attempt in Turkey has raised questions about that key country’s focus on the fight. 

Turkey’s foreign and defense ministers did not attend the sessions, but Kerry said a top official from Ankara assured the group that Turkey’s commitment to the fight ISIL would not be affected. 

Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande stated on July 22 that France would supply weapons to Iraq to support its fight against ISIL but ruled out any troop deployment in the country.

“This morning at the defense council, I took the decision as part of the anti-Daesh coalition to make weapons available to Iraqi forces,” Hollande was quoted as saying by AFP, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.

“They will be there next month,” he said after the meeting with a handful of ministers and the heads of the security forces.