Coalition needs 2 years to kick out IS from Iraq
Top officials from 21 countries kicked off talks in London on Thursday on pushing back Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria and tackling the growing threat of homegrown militants in Europe.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said before the meeting that the task of pushing the IS militants back would be slow.
“This isn’t going to be done in three months or six months. It’s going to take a year, two years to push ISIL (IS) back out of Iraq but we are doing the things that need to be done in order to turn the tide,” Hammond told Sky News.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Hammond co-hosted the talks.
It will be the first time the US-led coalition has met since this month’s attacks in Paris against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a supermarket that left 17 people dead.
“Terrorists want to drive us apart, but in fact their actions have had the opposite effect, they’re bringing us together,” Kerry said ahead of the talks.
He also called for international action on “the root causes, so that terrorist appeals fall flat and foreign recruits are no longer enticed to go to a place and wreak havoc on it.”
A US state department official said foreign fighters would be a “real focus” of the meeting and that an expert working group would be formed on sharing information to stop militants traveling.
Twelve people were killed in a shooting at Charlie Hebdo this month by gunmen affiliated with Al-Qaeda, while a third attacker who shot dead a policewoman and attacked a Jewish supermarket, killing four, claimed he was working on behalf of IS.
The attacks rekindled fears about the dangers posed by well-trained homegrown militants returning from foreign battlefields.
European police agency Europol estimates up to 5,000 EU citizens have gone to join the ranks of militants in Syria and Iraq.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the attacks in France “were a little bit like our own 9/11,” hitting at “symbols of our culture, of our values, like the media freedom and the police.”
Meanwhile, Belgian authorities were still hunting for two men on the run after police broke up a militant cell last week, while French authorities charged four men with helping one of the militant responsible for the Paris shootings.
Looming over the meeting is also the deadline set by members of the IS group for Tokyo to pay a $200 million ransom for the release of two Japanese hostages. Tokyo believes the deadline will expire at 2:50 p.m. (0550 GMT) on Friday.