7 Defense Ministers to Discuss IS Strategy

7 Defense Ministers to Discuss IS Strategy7 Defense Ministers to Discuss IS Strategy

Defense ministers of seven countries are meeting in Paris to hash out strategies against the self-styled Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria.

Canada has been excluded from the meeting. The French and US defense ministers are co-hosting Wednesday’s meeting with their Australian, British, Dutch, German and Italian counterparts.

In addition to discussing airstrikes against IS, the ministers will work to boost the capacity of local anti-IS forces such as the Kurdish peshmerga and Iraq’s Army. US, Australian and French instructors have trained 15,000 Iraqi soldiers so far, AFP reported.

France has pushed to include Russia, which launched airstrikes on IS in September to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

US Secretary of State John Kerry plans to speak with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Geneva Wednesday. UN-brokered talks to end Syria’s five-year civil war include Russia and could resume next Monday in Geneva.

IS captured several cities in Iraq and Syria in 2014 and 2015, but has seen recent setbacks across its self-declared caliphate, including the loss of the key Iraqi city of Ramadi to US-supported local forces last month.

Airstrikes have intensified since IS claimed involvement in attacks on November 13 in Paris, with coalition bombs especially targeting the group’s oil production—a principal source of revenue.

 Canada Left Out

The coalition apparently snubbed Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would withdraw the country’s jets from the coalition involved in airstrikes.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter did not mention Canada last week in a speech in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, when he said he would meet defense ministers from nations who had played a “significant role” in the coalition.

The North American country’s six CF-18 fighter jets, refueling tanker aircraft, two surveillance planes and one airlift aircraft, with about 600 airmen and -women, continue to participate in airstrikes, and it remains unclear when Canada will finally pull the planes.

Canada’s opposition Conservatives, voted out in October, have aimed to make hay of the exclusion. “Canada is deliberately being excluded because of this Liberal government’s decision to withdraw our CF-18s from the mission against ISIS,” the party claimed, using a common acronym for the group.