January 30, 2015 / 5:35 PM / 3 years ago

Air strikes alone not enough to defeat Islamic State: NATO chief

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Air strikes alone will not be enough to defeat Islamic State militants and greater Western help in building up Iraqi security forces could also play a role, the head of NATO said on Friday.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gestures as he addresses a news conference at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels January 30, 2015. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

The United States leads a coalition of countries that has been carrying out air strikes against the Islamist militants who have seized large parts of Syria and Iraq.

NATO as an organization is not involved but individual allies participate in the coalition.

“I welcome that (participation) and I think that is important, even though I don’t believe that air strikes alone can solve the problem,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference.

Separately Stoltenberg told Reuters in an interview that air strikes could be supplemented by working with the Iraqi government to help it develop its security forces.

Some Western countries have sent soldiers to Iraq to train and advise but they are reluctant to send their combat troops into action against Islamic State.

Last month the Baghdad government asked NATO for help in training its security forces after the Iraqi army collapsed in the face of an offensive by Islamic State militants last year.

“We are considering how we can do that in a way which is helpful for them and we are in dialogue with the government of Iraq now,” Stoltenberg said.

Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Gareth Jones

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