NEWPORT – Six EU countries have joined a US-led coalition to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State [IS] in Iraq and Syria.
The “Core Group” came together at the Nato summit in Wales on Thursday and Friday (5-6 September).
On the EU side, it includes: Denmark; France; Germany; Italy; Poland; and the UK. The other members are Australia; Canada; Turkey; and the US.
US president Barack Obama told press: “We are going to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL [an alternative name for IS] … the same way we’ve gone after al-Qaeda, and the same way we’ve gone after its affiliates in Somalia”.
IS is a radical Sunni Muslim group which controls territory in Iraq and Syria.
It is considered a threat to EU countries because hundreds of European Muslims have joined it and might come home to carry out terrorist attacks.
It has also beheaded Western hostages and exterminated Christian communities.
Obama noted the US has already carried out “more than 100” air strikes on IS forces.
France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the US have also supplied small arms and heavy-calibre machine guns to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq to help them fight the jihadists.
But Core Group leaders at the Nato event ruled out: sending ground troops; negotiating with IS on hostages; or forming an alliance with IS adversary, Syrian leader Bashar Assad.
They said the campaign could take up to three years.
They also said Western diplomacy will play an important role in persuading Arab allies to deligitimise IS.
“It is critical to have Arab states, and major Sunni states, rejecting the kind of nihilism which ISIL represents and saying that this is not what Islam is about”, Obama said.
Replying to questions on co-operation with Assad, British leader David Cameron added: “We can’t act in a way that undermines our moral authority, to start acting on the principle that my enemy’s enemy is my friend”.
For his part, Nato head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance itself will not play a combat role.
But it is willing to launch a training mission for Iraqi security forces if the incoming Iraqi government asks it to.
Rasmussen also said Nato states will share more intelligence on IS financing and overseas recruitment. “The issue of returning foreign fighters is really a matter of concern from [Nato’s] security point of view”, he noted.