The United States gathered its allies in the coalition fighting the Islamic State group on Wednesday and agreed on a plan to corner the jihadists in their final bastions.
US Defence Secretary Ash Carter told reporters that an accelerated military effort would soon see the group pushed back to Raqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.
He warned that isolating and taking out what he called the IS “parent tumor” would not eliminate its violent ideology or its ability to spring attacks elsewhere.
But defense ministers from the Western and Arab countries of the coalition now have a military plan to liberate the cities with local Iraqi and Syrian forces.
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“Today, we made the plans and commitments that will help us deliver ISIL the lasting defeat that it deserves,” Carter told reporters at an airbase outside Washington.
“Let me be clear: They culminate in the collapse of ISIL’s control over the cities of Mosul and Raqa.”
Separately, US Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with foreign ministers from the coalition countries to discuss the broader political and humanitarian plan.
And donor countries were set to pledge what officials hoped would be up to USD 2 billion to help civilians return to normal life in liberated areas of Iraq.
Baghdad needs the money to rebuild in areas that have been retaken and enable the population to return.
“The fight against Daesh is obviously far from finished, even as we have progress. Mosul is not yet free. Acts of terrorism remain a constant daily danger,” Kerry said.
“But the momentum — there is nobody at this table who would argue that the momentum hasn’t shifted — it has shifted,” he said, sitting with allied foreign ministers.
“And Daesh has been driven out of almost half of the territory that once occupied in Iraq,” he said, using his preferred term for the Islamic State group.
The two days of meetings were called as jihadist attacks — some of them inspired or ordered by the IS group — are proliferating around the world.
The coalition, and in particular its US leadership, are keen to seize back the narrative and emphasize what they see as progress on the main battlefield.
But their task is complicated by the jihadist violence erupting in French seafront resorts, on German passenger trains and in the streets of Turkey and the Middle East.
In recent weeks, jihadists have claimed horrific attacks in Nice, Istanbul, Baghdad and Dhaka that have left hundreds dead and injured.