US Forms Coalition Against ISIS

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US Forms Coalition Against ISIS

Kerry claims US will not send in troops, while airstrikes remain on the table

Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at the 2014 NATO summit in Newport, Wales (Photo: Chuck Hagel)

The Obama administration on Friday announced that it had formed a "core coalition" to fight the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as the threat of increased U.S. military involvement in the area looms.

"We need to attack them in ways that prevent them from taking over territory, to bolster the Iraqi security forces and others in the region who are prepared to take them on, without committing troops of our own," Kerry said at the NATO summit in Wales. "Obviously I think that's a red line for everybody here: no boots on the ground."

But while Kerry claimed no troops would be deployed in the region, the U.S. is still involved in a large-scale military intervention there, having conducted hundreds of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria within the past month. Likewise, NATO has offered to "build defense capacity" in Iraq if the government requested it. “There are obviously implications about Syria in this, and we can talk about that if we want in the course of the morning,” Kerry said, although he did not elaborate on the extent to which Syria would be involved in the campaign against the militant group that has occupied swaths of land throughout the country in the past few months.

The 10 countries in the coalition are the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark. There are no Arab nations in the group, although officials said they were hoping to extend the alliance to countries in the region, such as Jordan, whose leader, King Abdullah, is attending the summit.

The announcement also did not specify whether the campaign will involve removing the forces currently in the region, as President Barack Obama ordered additional troops to Iraq just two days ago following the beheading deaths of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff by members of ISIS. In late August, the U.S. conducted airstrikes to accompany a "humanitarian assistance operation" to help Shia Turkmen.

Critics have recently sounded the alarm over continued airstrikes in the region, which they say actually strengthens and emboldens ISIS militants. Stephen Miles of Win Without War told Common Dreams that ISIS "has grown strong and gained recruits, money, and territory from the violence in Syria and Iraq. They depend on those conflicts. If you are exacerbating them by taking part in Syrian civil war you will play right into their hand. The U.S. will give them a rallying cry in the war against us."

Despite the administration's promises  that an intervention would not be Western-led, Kerry's announcement also drew criticism as it came during a gathering of Western leaders.

Reuters reports:

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told foreign and defense ministers from 10 nations at a hastily arranged meeting that there were many ways they could help, including training and equipping the Iraqis...

British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande, the leaders of Europe's main military powers, told Obama in private meetings that Washington had to do more than simply order air strikes on IS targets in Iraq and needed an overall strategy, European officials said.

Kerry said the government would also look to foreign intelligence, financial resources, and border control from neighboring countries as part of its effort to push back against ISIS. He also said that the coalition was hoping to add as many member states from the region as possible before the upcoming UN security council meeting in New York, scheduled to take place on September 22.

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