Defence chiefs meet to bolster fight against ISIS

Military chiefs from seven nations - (from left) Australia's Marise Payne, Italy's Roberta Pinotti, Germany's Ursula Von Der Leyen, France's Jean-Yves Le Drian, the United States' Ashton Carter, Britain's Michael Fallon and the Netherlands' Jeanine H
Military chiefs from seven nations - (from left) Australia's Marise Payne, Italy's Roberta Pinotti, Germany's Ursula Von Der Leyen, France's Jean-Yves Le Drian, the United States' Ashton Carter, Britain's Michael Fallon and the Netherlands' Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert - got together in Paris yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • Defence chiefs from the United States, France, Britain and four other countries met in Paris yesterday to examine ways to build on gains made against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), including increasing the number of police and army trainers.

"The object of today is to satisfy ourselves that the balance of the campaign is right... and that we can now capitalise on the setbacks Daesh has suffered in Iraq and move on to tighten the noose around the head of the snake in Syria, in Raqqa," British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told reporters before the meeting. Daesh is an Arabic derogatory acronym for ISIS.

Mr Fallon said the group had lost 25 per cent of the area it controlled in Iraq and 10 per cent in Syria.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said the talks, which also include Germany, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands, were focused on how to accelerate the campaign. This could include an increase in the number of trainers and police who can help hold territory seized from ISIS.

"It's not just about adding more planes, but also trainers to accelerate the speed with which local forces can retake territory against Daesh," a French official said.

No Arab states were at the meeting. Mr Fallon said many Arab allies have been occupied with the Saudi-led campaign against Houthi militants in Yemen, but there would be a meeting withArab ministers in Brussels in the next few weeks.

Mr Carter said he would discuss with his allies how to draw a greater contribution from the SunniArabs, many of whom view the US-backed, Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad with suspicion. They also accuse the United States of not moving firmly enough against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The French official said that while there was pressure to intensify the air effort, the US-led coalition's ability was limited by requirements to avoid civilian casualties.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2016, with the headline 'Defence chiefs meet to bolster fight against ISIS'. Print Edition | Subscribe