Pentagon chief seeks greater support from anti-IS coalition partners
Pentagon chief Ashton Carter and dozens of defence ministers from the US-led coalition against Islamic State group are meeting in Brussels on Thursday to take stock of a difficult campaign.
More than 18 months after the US and the quickly assembled alliance began bombing IS targets, Carter hopes renewed alarm over IS attacks around the globe and the group's growing footprint in Libya will result in greater military and financial commitments from partners.
Carter has taken a two-pronged approach to garnering such support, using a combination of private diplomacy and public shaming, accusing some unspecified members of the 66-nation coalition of doing "nothing at all" to help the fight.
A senior US defence official said Washington is looking not just for pledges of military support and cash, but ideas too.
"The secretary will, frankly, give a call to his fellow ministers to be creative, to speak up to contribute to the thought leadership in the campaign," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There's no monopoly on good ideas."
The assessment comes after the coalition has carried out more than 10,000 air strikes in Iraq and Syria at a cost to the United States of nearly $6 billion.
The effort has dealt some significant blows to the militants. The Pentagon estimates IS has lost about 40 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq, and about 10 percent of the land it claimed in Syria.
But despite losing control of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, assaults to recapture IS-held Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria are still many months away, and thousands of IS fighters have streamed into Libya.
Carter's efforts appear to be bearing some fruit. Canada, for instance, announced Monday it would triple the number of special forces training Kurdish militia in northern Iraq to about 210.
Saudi Arabia's offer to send ground troops to fight IS in Syria will also be on Thursday's agenda.
"There are a number of other (countries) who are in the final throes of trying to figure out if they can also make that leap," the official added.
In all, 27 coalition members who have contributed militarily to the 18-month fight will join Carter's delegation in Brussels. Another 21 coalition countries are attending as observers.
The summit comes at the conclusion of a two-day meeting for Nato defence ministers that focused on new commitments to boost the alliance's presence along Eastern Europe and act as a deterrent against aggression from Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Nato is also considering a request by key members Germany and Turkey to help cope with a massive influx of refugees, mostly fleeing the Syrian conflict.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Ankara on Monday that Turkey and Germany want Nato to help police the Turkish coast to prevent smugglers from packing migrants into boats for the perilous crossing to Greece.