While President Obama appealed for the public’s patience Tuesday as he met with more than 20 defense chiefs of nations he enlisted in the struggling campaign against ISIS, Islamic State fighters surrounded one of Iraq’s largest air bases, according to a police captain in Anbar province and other security sources. In other words there is a supposed acknowledgement that the Islamic State is making some gains on the ground, despite the U.S. air strikes.
“This is going to be a long-term campaign. There are no quick fixes involved,” Obama said. “We’re still in the early stages. As with any military effort, there will be days of progress and there are going to be periods of setback. But our coalition is united behind this long-term effort.”
Nearly 60 countries are now part of the effort to stop ISIS.
Prior to the meeting, the U.S. military said a U.S.-led international coalition carried out 21 air strikes against Islamic State (IS) militants in and around the besieged northern Syrian town of Kobani on October 14.
During the meeting, the defense leaders agreed that Islamic State has tactical momentum on several fronts, a military official said. In recent days, Islamic State fighters have solidified their hold on Iraq’s Anbar province and moved close to Baghdad.
He said at this point there was a focus on the fighting in Anbar, adding: “And we’re deeply concerned about the situation in and around the Syrian town of Kobani, which underscores the threat that ISIL poses in both Iraq and Syria.” He used an alternative acronym for the group.
Officials described Tuesday’s meeting as a coordination session for the coalition in the 2-month-old campaign. It was one of several convened over two days by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for visiting counterparts from Britain, Canada and France, as well as the Sunni Arab governments (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar) that joined the fight last month. The group also was to discuss the name of the operation, which could be announced this week.
The White House said representatives from Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Britain Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States attended the closed meetings.
Having Turkey at the table was an important step. Ankara has come under pressure to play a more active role against Islamic State, and this week agreed to help equip and train some Syrian armed groups fighting the militants, as well as the Syrian government.
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