America will not shirk the responsibilities of leadership in the fight against the Islamic State group, Mike Pompeo has said.
The US Secretary of State was trying to allay fears that President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw forces from Syria could jeopardize gains against the militants there and neighboring Iraq.
President Trump’s announcement in December shocked US allies and led to the resignations of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the top US envoy to the anti-IS coalition, Brett McGurk.
While the withdrawal would fulfill a Trump goal, US military leaders have pushed back for months, arguing IS remains a threat and could regroup.
US policy had been to keep troops in place until the extremists are completely eradicated. Fears that IS fighters are making a strategic manouevre to lay low ahead of the US pullout has fueled criticism that President Trump telegraphed his military plans — the same thing he accused President Barack Obama of doing in Afghanistan.
Mr Pompeo told foreign ministers and senior officials from the 79-member, US-led coalition that the planned withdrawal “is not a change in the mission” but a change in tactics against a group that should still be considered a menace.
— Department of State (@StateDept) February 6, 2019
IS has lost more than 99% of the territory it once held in the two countries.
“America will continue to lead in giving those who would destroy us no quarter,” Mr Pompeo said.
Mr Pompeo called on the coalition to increase intelligence-sharing, repatriate and prosecute captured foreign fighters and accelerate stabilization efforts so IS remnants cannot reconstitute in Iraq, Syria or elsewhere.
He said the fight is entering a new stage where those allied against IS must confront a “decentralized jihad” with more than military force.