Thursday, December 15, 2016

Defense Chief: US to Remain Leader in Anti-IS Fight

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Thursday reassured coalition partners that the United States would remain a key player in the fight against Islamic State militants under the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

“I can’t give assurances. I can’t speak for the next administration. However, I do have confidence in the future of the coalition campaign,” Carter told his counterparts from 14 coalition nations meeting in London.

“I’m confident that, based on the results we’re seeing and the strength of our coalition, the United States and its military will continue to be with you as a leading partner in this campaign,” he said.

Carter opened the last of the coalition planning meetings to be held during the Obama administration, a gathering that was overshadowed by European partners’ questions about the Trump administration’s strategy for combating IS.

Under President Barack Obama, the United States has had a force of 5,000 troops in Iraq, relying on small teams of special operations forces and advisers who assist local fighters. Trump has criticized that as an insufficient and slow-moving response to the threat posed by IS, one that has allowed the militants to become entrenched in Iraq and Syria.

The president-elect’s nominee for secretary of defense, retired General James Mattis, has described the Obama administration’s approach to IS as “replete with half-measures” and has said the next president “is going to inherit a mess.”

Analysts say it appears evident that Trump’s strategy is going to be different, but details of it have yet to be unveiled.

Among the questions remaining is whether the Trump administration will keep up support for Syrian rebels or cooperate with Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The meeting in London capped a world tour in which the U.S. defense secretary has visited with American troops and assured them that efforts against IS are going as planned.

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