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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

US pledges $200m in aid to Syria, Tillerson says

ISIL's defeat cannot be ensured without providing the displaced with basic needs: Tillerson 

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson attends the Ministerial Meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, the sidelines of Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, at Bayan Palace, in Kuwait City, Kuwait, on February 13, 2018. Noufal Ibrahim / EPA
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson attends the Ministerial Meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, the sidelines of Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, at Bayan Palace, in Kuwait City, Kuwait, on February 13, 2018. Noufal Ibrahim / EPA

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday that ISIL’s defeat cannot be ensured without providing basic needs to those displaced by war.

Speaking at a meeting in Kuwait of the global coalition against ISIL, the US official said that Washington decided to provide $200 million (Dh734.5m) in aid to stabilise liberated areas in Syria.

Mr Tillerson is seeking to shore up support from the 70 countries and thousands of companies converging in Kuwait City for a donor conference to raise $88 billion needed to rebuild Iraq after the onslaught of ISIL. The US, instead, said it encourages investments by the companies in the private sector and Gulf Arab allies.

The secretary of state’s five-stop tour of the Middle East comes as a recent military clash between Israel and Iran in Syria presents a challenge to America's scaled-backed policy on the region.

The Trump administration said it did not plan to pledge any money for the reconstruction of Iraq after it spent $60bn on projects in the country following the ousting of former president Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Government auditors in 2013 found that at least 10 per cent of the US money could not be accounted for, with billions of dollars wasted on dubious contracts.

Mr Tillerson’s announcement of more than $200m to Syria signifies a reversal in Mr Trump’s policy to withdraw from nation-building efforts.

In addition to reconstruction, Iraq will see itself forced to tackle the possible reemergence of ISIL, with swaths of the country still ripe for extremism.

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“ISIS' leadership, online presence and terrorist network are under more pressure than ever, but the end of major combat operations does not mean we have achieved the enduring defeat of ISIS," said Mr Tillerson, using a different acronym for ISIL.

The group, he added, remains “a serious threat to the stability of the region and our homelands in other parts of the globe, without continued attention from the coalition we risk the return of extremist groups like ISIS.”

On his five-stop tour of the region, Mr Tillerson met with several heads of state, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, two oil-rich countries expected to be big-budget donors.

Failure to raise the expected figure will spell disaster for Prime Minister Haidar Al Abadi who is tasked with rallying support in Iraq ahead of his campaign for reelection in May 2018.

Despite ISIL's defeat, Mr Abadi is still unsure of his standing among the millions of Iraqis displaced by the war.

New prospects for joint coordination among members of the International Coalition against ISIL should be created, Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al Sabah said onTuesday.

"The international community is still facing a direct threat from armed terrorist groups. This requires joint coordination and developing the coalition's strategy to fight ISIL," the Kuwaiti top diplomat noted.

The conference has fallen short of the $88 billion needed with only $330 million pledged on Monday by non-governmental organisations. Of the 70 countries attending the conference, none have indicated any real pledges yet.

The current outcome places Iraq in a tenuous position with more than 3.5 million residents displaced and enormous damage to infrastructure.

Iraqi officials called for $23 billion in short term reconstruction and $65 billion to be delivered over the space of a few years.

The conference will be divided into two sessions, with the first one tackling the remaining fight against ISIL and the second dedicated to examining anti-terrorism efforts.

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