Ministers From 60 Nations Discuss Anti-IS Strategy in Brussels

Ministers From 60 Nations Discuss Anti-IS Strategy in BrusselsMinisters From 60 Nations Discuss Anti-IS Strategy in Brussels

International efforts to defeat the extremist militant group IS have already degraded the group’s operations in Syria and Iraq, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday, as he pledged the campaign will continue “for as long as it takes.”

Speaking in Brussels at the first meeting of ministers from more than 60 countries and groups involved in the campaign, Kerry said around 1,000 airstrikes and other operations have resulted in IS losing ground in Iraq and weakened the group’s command facilities and oil infrastructure in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“It is much harder now than we started for Da’esh to assemble forces in strength to travel in convoys and to launch concerted attacks,” Kerry said, using Islamic State’s Arab name. “No large Da’esh unit can move forward aggressively without worrying about what will come down on it from the skies.”

Kerry said the coalition’s efforts will likely need to continue for “years.”

Diplomats acknowledged the effort was slow to start, and one senior US official described Wednesday’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.”

Wednesday’s meeting, which is hosted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels, brings together foreign ministers of the international coalition against IS.

The ministers will review the strategy against the group and discuss the format for further such meetings.

In his opening remarks, Kerry also praised recent moves by the Iraqi government to broaden its political support.

He welcomed recent visits to Iraq by the Turkish prime minister and the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, which he said have “begun to indicate a new moment in the relationship with Iraq.”

He said this week’s agreement between the Baghdad government and the semiautonomous Kurdish government to share oil revenues was a “significant achievement.”

“As everybody knows who has been involved with Iraq for years now, that has been a long sought goal and it’s a very significant achievement among many,” he said.

The United States launched the first strikes against IS in Iraq in August. In late September the strikes were extended to IS targets in Syria, involving both the United States as well as a number of allies.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Bahrain are taking part in the air strikes in Syria and Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France and the Netherlands are participating in Iraq.

Coalition partners, he said, are due to meet in Marrakesh, Morocco on December 15 to further tackle the foreign fighters problem.