Defeating ISIS is US’ No 1 goal in Middle East:Tillerson

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Recognising that there are many pressing challenges in the Middle East, US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson today said defeating the terrorist group is the “number one US goal in the region.”

“I recognise there are many pressing challenges in the Middle East, but defeating ISIS is the United States’ number one goal in the region. When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. We must continue to keep our focus on the most urgent matter at hand,” Tillerson said in his address to the 10th meeting of the 68-member Global Coalition against ISIS.

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India is not part of the global coalition against ISIS.

However, the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s four-day trip to the US coincides with this meeting.

The Ministerial being hosted by the State Department is focusing on the ground campaign in Iraq and Syria, and how the Coalition can effectively transition to defeat ISIS globally along the five lines of effort of the campaign (military, foreign terrorist fighters, counterterrorist financing, counter-messaging, and stabilization of liberated areas).

Addressing the first full meeting of the Coalition since 2014, Tillerson said the 68-member group is “united in stopping” an ISIS resurgence, halting its global ambitions, and discrediting its ideological narrative.

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“And we are ready to grow stronger and stay aggressive in this battle,” he said.

“The expansion of ISIS has necessitated a large scale military response, and our offensive measures are reclaiming areas in Iraq and Syria in which ISIS has had a large and destructive footprint. Our end goal in this phase is the regional elimination of ISIS through military force,” Tillerson said.

The coalition he said will continue to facilitate the return of people to their homes, and work with local political leadership.

They will provide stable and fair governance, rebuild infrastructure, and provide essential services.

“We will use our diplomatic presence on the ground to facilitate channels of dialogue between local leadership and Coalition partners. The US will increase our pressure on ISIS and al-Qaeda and will work to establish interim zones of stability, through ceasefires, to allow refugees to return home,” Tillerson said.

“As we stabilise areas encompassing ISIS s physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria, we also must prevent their seeds of hatred from taking root elsewhere. We must ensure ISIS cannot gain or maintain footholds in new regions of the world.

We must fight ISIS online as aggressively as we would on the ground,” said the US Secretary of State.

Said to be the largest international coalition in history, the 68-member Global Coalition since its formation in 2014 has liberated 62 per cent of the terrain once occupied by ISIS.

Having conducted more than 19,000 air strikes, the coalition has killed more than 180 senior to mid-level of the ISIS leadership.

(With inputs from PTI)

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