A GLOBAL fight against Islamic State militants will probably take years to succeed, but nations are prepared to engage “for as long as it takes” to defeat the insurgency, US Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday.
Nearly a year after the Islamic State overran key cities in western Iraq, diplomats from more than 60 countries and international organisations gathered in Brussels to plot a way forward against what has since become one of the world’s worst terror threats.
The mostly Sunni Muslim insurgency now stretches across much of northern Iraq and Syria, and has attracted thousands of foreign fighters from around the world, including Europe. Its elusive leadership is flush with financial support from illicit donations and black-market oil sales.
“We recognise the hard work that remains to be done,” Mr Kerry told the gathering at Nato headquarters.
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“Our commitment will be measured most likely in years, but our efforts are already having a significant impact.
“We will engage in this campaign for as long as it takes to prevail.”
Kerry also met privately with Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi, who asked for “a lot of support to be able to crush Daesh” – the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.
“I think we’re the only country in the Middle East who is really fighting Daesh on the ground,” Mr al-Abadi said.
Since August – nearly two months after militants seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city – the US and allies have launched more than 1,000 air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Mr Kerry said the attacks have greatly hampered the insurgency, and cited training missions and equipment being supplied by other nations that have joined the coalition since it was created less than three months ago.
Diplomats acknowledged the effort was slow to start, and one senior US official described yesterday’s meeting as the “end of the beginning” of the global coalition’s push to degrade the militancy.
“We have to build a very strong partnership,” said European Union policy chief Federica Mogherini. “The challenge we are facing is not only a challenge for the Middle East but a challenge for the whole world.”
On Tuesday, the Pentagon said Iran had launched air strikes against Islamic State forces in eastern Iraq.
The US has not invited Iran to join the coalition fighting the militants, and Iran has said it would not join in any case.
But Mr al-Abadi told reporters “I’m not aware there were any air strikes” by Iran in Iraq.
“Did they have a role in that? That’s news for me,” Mr al-Abadi said when asked if Iran co-ordinated with or notified officials in Baghdad before launching air attacks against militants in Iraq. He twice repeated that he was unaware of Iranian air strikes in Iraq.
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