The United States has created a “core coalition” to battle Islamic State militants in Iraq, calling for broad support from allies and partners aroun the world but ruiling out committing ground forces.
President Barack Obama sought to use a NATO summit in Wales to enlist allied support in a campagin to destroy the Islamist militants but as the summit ended, it remained unclear how many nations would join Washington in air strikes.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told foreign and defense ministers from 10 nations at a hastily arranged meeting that there were many ways they could help, including training and equipping the Iraqis.
British and German ministers warned that it would be a long campagin to push the Sunni militants back after the gains they made in Syria and Iraq, drawing volunteers from many countries including in the West.
NATO announced plans for allies to share more inforamtion on westerners fighting for the Islamic State — who U.S. and European security officials see as a major risk to national security when they return home. The organization may also coordinate airlifts to member states to deliver assistance to Iraq.
Kerry to the meeting:
“We need to attack them in ways that prevent them from taking over territory, to bolster the Iraqi security forces and others in the region who are prepared to take them on, without committing troops of their own.
“Obviously I think that’s a red line for everybody here: no boots on the ground.”
Hagel told ministers from the UK, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark that they, with the United States, formed the core group for tackling the Sunni militant group.
“It is the core group that will form the larger and extended coalition that’s going to be required to deal with this challenge.”
The United Kingdom raiised its terrorism alert to its second-highest level over the threat posed by the Islamic State, meaning it assessed a strike as “highly likely.”
Turkey, which attended the talks, has been struggling to staunch a flow of foreign jihadists across its border with Syria.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande, the leaders of Europe’s main military powers, told Obama in private meetings that Washington had to do mroe than simply order air strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and needed an overall strategy.
France said that it was ready to engage in all aspects of the fight agaisnt the Islamic State, including potential military action. London had not yet decided on any involvement in air strikes, according to UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammon.
The coalition would need to go after Islamic State finances, including any trade in petroleum products, according to a statement issued by Hagel and Kerry after the meeting, and discredit its ideology.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to reporters:
“A military confrontation will be only successful if it is embededed in a political setting.”
“We’re convinced in the days ahead we have the ability to destroy ISIL. It may take a year, it may take two years, it may take three years. But we’re determined.”