February 9, 2016 / 10:11 PM / 2 years ago

U.S. looks to shore up allies' support to battle Islamic State

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The United States said on Tuesday it hoped allies demonstrate a willingness to ramp up their contributions to the fight against Islamic State and to deterring Russia in eastern Europe during high-level defense talks in Brussels this week.

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, Iraq, in this June 23, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he plans to outline America’s plan to accelerate the campaign against Islamic State to defense chiefs from more than two dozen allies at talks on Thursday.

The United States has long-standing concerns that many allies are not contributing nearly enough to combat the jihadist group that has spread beyond its self-declared caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria.

“I don’t think anybody’s satisfied with the pace of the (campaign), that’s why we’re all looking to accelerate it. Certainly the president isn’t (satisfied),” Carter told reporters traveling with him.

Washington has signaled the need for military and police trainers as well as contributions of special operations forces, including from Sunni Muslim Arab allies now expressing a new willingness to contribute.

“We have a very clear operational picture of how to do it. Now we just need the resources and the forces to fall in behind it,” he said, noting plans to capture Islamic State strongholds of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress on Tuesday

that an Iraqi-led operation to retake Mosul is unlikely to take place this year.

The U.S. strategy in Syria is likely to come under intense scrutiny after four months of Russian air strikes have tipped momentum toward President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s five-year-old civil war.

Defense chiefs were expected to discuss a major Syrian government offensive backed by Russia and Iran now underway near Aleppo that rebels say threatens the future of their insurrection.

DETERRING RUSSIA

On Wednesday, NATO defense ministers will begin outlining plans for a complex web of small eastern outposts, forces on rotation, regular war games and warehoused equipment ready for a rapid response force.

U.S. plans for a four-fold increase in military spending in Europe to $3.4 billion in fiscal year 2017 are central to the strategy, which has been shaped in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

“I’ll be looking for others in NATO to echo (us) in our investment,” Carter said.

Carter said the plan aimed to move NATO to a “full deterrence posture” to thwart any kind of aggression.

“It’s not going to look like it did back in Cold War days but it will constitute, in today’s terms, a strong deterrent,” Carter said.

Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Alistair Bell

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