Tuesday 20 March 2018

Countries fighting IS plan for when the militants are defeated

Michael Fallon arrives at the meeting of countries fighting IS (AP)
Michael Fallon arrives at the meeting of countries fighting IS (AP)

More than 30 countries fighting Islamic State have stressed the need to rebuild the war-torn cities it controls when it is defeated.

Defence and foreign ministers are in the US for two days of meetings on the next steps to be taken in the fight to defeat IS, which still maintains control of large sections of Iraq and Syria.

US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said after the first day that the ministers expressed concerns about what happens after the expected defeat of the militant group, and whether countries are ready to help rebuild the war-torn cities, particularly in Iraq.

He also said that some nations have agreed to step up their contributions to the fight, as battles for the key cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria loom.

"The biggest strategic concern of this group of defence ministers was that the stabilisation and governance effort will lag behind the military campaign," Mr Carter said.

"Making sure there's no such lag must be a significant strategic priority for us. We discussed it today and it will be an important focus of our conversation tomorrow at the State Department with our foreign ministry counterparts."

British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said more must be done to ensure that residents will be able and willing to return to the Iraqi cities.

He said the coalition must be sure it is "able to support the government of Iraq in the work that will be required the day after Mosul is eventually liberated".

That includes efforts to get basic services turned back on and removing the threat of hidden bombs.

Mr Fallon said "everything is booby-trapped," including the rubble, and the people will not have the confidence to return unless the explosives are cleared away.

The gathering comes as Iraqi security forces, aided by the coalition, are preparing to encircle and eventually attempt to retake the key northern city of Mosul.

Secretary of State John Kerry was hosting a separate conference at the State Department to try to raise at least 2 billion dollars (£1.5 billion) from donor nations to help Iraq as it takes territory from IS.

The money will go to humanitarian aid for displaced people, demining, immediate help to recently liberated communities and the people returning to them as well as medium-to long-term reconstruction and development assistance.

"If we do not succeed in Iraq, none of our countries will be safer," Mr Kerry said.

On Thursday, he will host a joint meeting of defence and foreign ministers in the counter-IS coalition. They are expected to talk about the co-ordination of political and military efforts, including counter-terrorist financing, combating the flow of foreign fighters, and the stabilisation of cities and towns that have been freed from IS control.

The gathering comes on the heels of the Nato summit in Warsaw earlier this month, when allies agreed to boost support for the anti-IS mission, including the launch of a training and capacity-building mission for Iraqi armed forces in Iraq.

The US has announced it will send 560 additional troops to Iraq to transform a newly retaken air base into a staging hub for the long-awaited battle to recapture Mosul from IS militants.

The coalition is also looking to reinforce the fight in Syria, where US-backed forces are in a tough fight for the town of Manbij.


Press Association

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