Arab leaders bemoan lack of strategy, weapons against extremists

Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani speaks during the 51st Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on Sunday. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani speaks during the 51st Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on Sunday. -- PHOTO: AFP 

MUNICH (REUTERS) - Arab leaders bemoaned what they called a lack of strategy and weapons in the fight against extremists like ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) at a security conference attended by Western leaders in Munich on Sunday.

ISIS fighters have brought large areas in Syria and Iraq under their control, using extreme violence against civilians, journalists and Arab and Kurdish soldiers.

U.S.-led air strikes and arms deliveries from Western countries to Kurdish fighters have helped contain ISIS expansion into Kurdish territory in northern Iraq. But on the ground, ISIS - known as Daesh in Arabic - uses heavy weapons captured from a weakened Iraqi army, leaving local fighters painfully exposed.

"I don't see that there is a clear strategy how to deal with ISIS," Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said. "How to face it, how to contain it, control it, defeat it and eliminate it. I don't see it... Unless the air strikes is a strategy. That's not a strategy." Last month, the head of NATO said air strikes alone would not be enough to defeat ISIS and greater Western help in building up Iraqi security forces could also play a role.

Qatar also criticised current efforts against ISIS, especially in Iraq where many Sunnis have felt disenfranchised by the Shi'ite-dominated leadership in Baghdad.

"If we want those people (Sunnis) to fight for themselves, to clean Iraq from any terrorists, we have to not only issue a programme but to implement this programme tangibly," Qatar's Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah said in Munich. "We still need to have a strategy in Iraq from our allies. There is no strategy, I'll be very frank on this."

Saudi Arabia and Jordan have taken part in air strikes against ISIS. Other countries like Egypt say the international community is not helping enough in their fight against other extremist groups such as Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis in the Sinai peninsula, bordering Israel.

"We need more weapons, the quality, the sophistication of the weapons, the technology so that we can track and be able to infiltrate these organizations," Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Reuters on the sidelines of the Munich conference.

Echoing Egypt's calls for a more comprehensive strategy, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani urged leaders in Munich to act on militants operating from his country, adding that this threat should not be treated in isolation from IS and other groups.