ISIL’s advance has been halted, Kerry tells coalition
LONDON // The US-led coalition battling ISIL has made significant gains, killing thousands of the militant fighters and half of its leadership, US secretary of state John Kerry said on Thursday.
Mr Kerry said Iraqi ground troops backed by almost 2,000 airstrikes had retaken 700 square kilometres of territory and that ISIL’s advance had been “halted … and in some cases reversed”.
But he said the coalition “can do better” at stopping the militant group’s flow of funds and foreign fighters, as well as the global spread of its message.
Mr Kerry made the announcement at an anti-ISIL coalition meeting in London.
He met British foreign secretary Philip Hammond, Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi, and officials from 21 countries, including the UAE, at the one-day conference.
The forum was called to seal the cracks in the international coalition against the extremist group, which controls huge areas of Syria and Iraq.
Mr Al Abadi complained recently that weapons and ammunition have not been reaching Iraqi forces fast enough, and accused the world of stalling on commitments to train Iraqi troops.
“We are in this almost on our own,” he said. “There is a lot being said and spoken, but very little on the ground.”
After Thursday’s meeting, however, Mr Al Abadi said: “I have asked people for more support and I think my call didn’t go unnoticed.”
Mr Kerry said Iraqi forces would be receiving large numbers of US-made M16 rifles “very, very shortly”.
“There is a pipeline here and it is working,” he said.
Apart from the US, UK and Iraq, other countries represented at the talks included France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain.
From the Mena region, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait attended.
The meeting was the first major conference since the Paris attacks on the office of a satirical magazine and kosher supermarket in which 20 people were killed.
The meeting allowed Iraq and its allies to present a united front after Mr Al Abadi’s complaints and Mr Hammond’s remarks on Thursday that Iraqi forces were in a “state of disarray”.
He said it would “be months yet before they are ready to start significant combat operations” against the extremists.
Mr Kerry’s comments that ISIL’s advance had been halted came despite the fact that a large area and the major city of Mosul remain in the militants’ control.
Another potential obstacle facing the coalition is falling oil prices, which Mr Al Abadi said had been “disastrous” for Iraq’s budget.
“We don’t want to see a reverse of our military victory due to our budget and fiscal problems,” he said.
Mr Hammond assured him that would not happen.
“This campaign is not going to fail for the want of some guns or some bullets in the hands of the Iraqi security forces,” he said.
Mr Kerry called eradicating ISIL was “the challenge of our time”.
“Their goal is to suppress and to take over and to expand a very nihilistic, unbelievably oppressive sense of how people ought to live,” he said.
“We’ve seen them carry it out in the most egregiously horrendous fashion with public beheadings, they’re now threatening two Japanese hostages.
“It’s the challenge of our time. And we need to step up and lead.”
Mr Kerry also said that members of the coalition would now meet on a monthly basis, but not necessarily at a ministerial level.
* Associated Press
Updated: January 23, 2015 04:00 AM