US wants allies to do more to fight ISIS

White House requests more military aid from coalition of about 40 countries

MELBOURNE • United States Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has written to coalition members to ask them to supply more military assistance to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne on Saturday confirmed the request, which was made to the coalition of about 40 countries, and said it did not include a request for additional troops on the ground. She said Australia would respond to the US request but "is already making a very significant commitment", especially through air operations and building up local partners.

Germany has also been asked for more military help in the fight against ISIS, German magazine Der Spiegel reported. The request came a week after Parliament approved a plan to join the campaign in Syria.

Germany does not plan to carry out air strikes in Syria, but its mission includes six reconnaissance jets, a frigate to protect the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, refuelling aircraft and up to 1,200 troops. The deployment was a direct response to a French appeal for solidarity after militant attacks in Paris killed 130 people.

A German defence ministry spokesman confirmed a letter had been received from the US and its content was under consideration.

Mr Carter had on Friday pledged to intensify efforts to destroy ISIS, saying that the US was taking a number of steps to do so. The US-led coalition began bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria last year but the White House is under growing pressure to do more, amid criticism there has been a lack of discernable progress in eliminating the extremists.

Mr Obama will travel to the Pentagon today to take stock of the ongoing military efforts there, his spokesman said. US Secretary of State John Kerry is also due in Moscow tomorrow as part of a new bid to push for a peace plan to end Syria's nearly five-year conflict.

Russia began an air campaign in September at the request of the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad, a year after the US-led coalition started its air war against ISIS.

The Moscow meeting would build on the momentum of last month's Vienna talks and an unprecedented two-day gathering this week in Riyadh among Syria's main political and armed opposition groups. The Saudi talks saw the groups agreeing to negotiate with Mr Assad's regime, but they also insisted that he step down at the start of any political transition.

But in a sign of the tough task ahead, Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate on Saturday rejected the summit's outcome, and Russia denounced the gathering as unrepresentative.

Al-Nusra Front chief Abu Mohamed al-Jolani rejected the outcome as a "plot" and accused rebels who had attended of betraying "the youth who have sacrificed their blood" in Syria's nearly five-year war.

Russia, a key ally of Mr Assad, also denounced the Saudi talks. "We cannot agree with an attempt made by the group that gathered in Riyadh to monopolise the right to speak on behalf of the entire Syrian opposition," the foreign ministry said.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2015, with the headline 'US wants allies to do more to fight ISIS'. Print Edition | Subscribe