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U.S. Urges Allies To Step Up Efforts Against Islamic State

  • RFE/RL

The United States is pushing for greater contributions from its allies in the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants following a string of terrorist attacks claimed by the extremist group.

Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama's envoy to the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS militants in Syria and Iraq, told top representatives of the 65-country alliance that they must "increase pressure" on the extremist group "at its core," the U.S. State Department said in a readout of the November 23 meeting.

"We need to do more as a coalition to coordinate our efforts and pressure ISIL across its global network," the State Department readout cited McGurk as telling the meeting, using an alternate acronym for the group.

McGurk and Vice President Joe Biden addressed ambassadors of 59 of the 65 countries in the coalition at the meeting in Washington, which focused on how to cut off financing for the IS "global network" and how to stem the flow of militants crossing into Iraq and Syria to join the extremist group.

The coalition has been bombing IS positions in Syria and Iraq for more than a year. But the campaign has taken on greater urgency in the wake of several deadly attacks that IS militants have claimed credit for, including in Ankara, Baghdad, Beirut, and Paris, as well as the downing of a Russian commercial airliner in Egypt.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Abu Dhabi on November 23 that both he and Obama would like to see progress against IS forces "go faster."

In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest echoed McGurk’s call for increased commitment from members of the anti-IS coalition, saying that Washington is "pulling more than our weight" in the alliance.

"We believe that there is more that can be done if countries are willing to contribute additional resources," Earnest told reporters on November 23.

The U.S. push for greater contributions in the campaign against IS came a day before French President Francois Hollande was set to meet with Obama at the White House. The French leader is then scheduled to travel to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 26.

France, a member of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the IS group, stepped up air strikes on Syria following the November 13 terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Hollande has called for a broad anti-IS coalition and has stepped up France's military coordination with Russia in Syria.

Washington is skeptical that Putin's campaign of air strikes in Syria, launched in late September, is aimed primarily at IS targets rather than more moderate opposition forces -- some of which are backed by the United States and its allies -- seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow’s longtime ally.

Kerry said during his visit to Abu Dhabi that greater cooperation with Russia may be possible under certain circumstances and could lead to "constructive possibilities."

But he said the potential perception that Washington is helping prop up Assad, who U.S. officials insist should not be part of a post-war government in Syria, could “complicate” such cooperation.

"If certain entities perceive that whatever we're doing is going to help Assad to stay, that complicates issues," Kerry said. "So it has to be done in a way that manages the passions...among people who have been fighting Assad for four years."

Earnest told reporters in Washington on November 23 that the United States would "continue the conversation" with Putin but suggested Obama would make no promises to Hollande during their November 24 meeting.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters