US President Barack Obama said Friday he was confident he could gather a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, following two days of talks at the NATO summit.
“I leave here confident that NATO allies and partners are prepared to join in a broad, international coalition,” Obama said after a meeting of the Western military alliance in Wales. “We’re going to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL (IS’s previous name) the same way we’ve gone after al-Qaeda,” he said.
Following the beheading of two US journalists by the Islamic State, which has overrun swaths of northern Iraq and Syria, Obama said there was “unanimity” among NATO members that the group “poses a significant threat”.
Obama cautioned that “it’s not going to happen overnight”, but “we’re going to achieve our goal.
US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to the Middle East to seek support of regional powers, Obama said, insisting that Arab involvement was “absolutely critical”.
The president added: “Our hope is the Iraqi government is actually formed and finalised next week. That, then, allows us to work with them on a broader strategy.”
Kerry on Friday co-chaired with Britain a meeting of ministers from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Turkey in a bid to win support for the fight against IS.
IS caught the world by surprise when it made huge territorial gains and declared an Islamic “caliphate” in an area straddling Iraq and Syria countries.
The US has conducted more than 100 airstrikes in northern Iraq in recent weeks, allowing Kurdish and Iraqi forces to regain ground lost to the jihadists.
Other countries have provided humanitarian assistance and intelligence, while Germany and France are providing military equipment to Kurdish fighters battling IS in northern Iraq.
Kerry stressed Friday that there would be “no boots on the ground” in the US strategy against IS, but added that “there are many ways in which we can train, advise, assist, and equip”.
He urged allies to consider how they could contribute so the US could have a plan at the UN General Assembly meeting later this month.
European allies, while supportive of the US initiative, are proceeding with caution.
Britain has left the door open to air strikes in Iraq, but Prime Minister David Cameron played down the prospect of any immediate action….