Trump administration to host 68-nation meeting to discuss strategies in defeating ISIS

by Jardine Malado

(Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani)Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017.

President Donald Trump’s administration is expected to host a meeting of ministers from 68 countries this month to discuss strategies to defeat the Islamic State terror group.

The State Department announced on Thursday that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be hosting the meeting that will be held in Washington on March 22 to 23, according to Reuters. The goal of the meeting is to accelerate the “international efforts to defeat ISIS in the remaining areas it holds in Iraq and Syria and maximize pressure on its branches, affiliates and networks.”

The meeting, which came at a time when ISIS appears to be losing ground militarily, will be the largest gathering of an international coalition opposed to the terror group since 2014.

“It’s an opportunity for Secretary Tillerson to lay out the challenges that are facing the coalition moving forward,” said acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

“We all recognize that we have seen progress in defeating ISIS on the ground … how do we leverage that success? How do we build on that success?” he went on to say.

An official stated that the Trump administration would reinforce the importance of the coalition, which includes military partners as well as nations that support diplomatic and humanitarian efforts through donations.

During the campaign, Trump repeatedly vowed that confronting the terror group would be one of his priorities. On Jan. 28, the president issued an executive order asking the Pentagon, Joint Chiefs of Staff and other agencies to submit a preliminary plan in 30 days for defeating ISIS.

In late February, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis presented the plan to the White House. Officials familiar with the review have stated that it would likely lead to decisions that would require more military involvement in Syria and possibly more ground troops. The officials also noted that the report emphasizes nonmilitary options, such as efforts to restrict the terror group’s ability to recruit and to squeeze their finances.

Toner said that the details of the plan were still classified, but he revealed that the meeting would look at how “to augment existing capabilities and processes on the ground.”

The Iraqi operation to liberate the eastern part of Mosul was launched in mid-October with the support from the U.S.-led coalition. The offensive to retake the western part of the city began less than three weeks ago.

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