U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday said a growing international coalition was ready and able to defeat the group calling itself the Islamic State (also ISIS or ISIL) within three years.
“We’re convinced that in the days ahead we have the ability to destroy ISIL,” Kerry said Friday in Wales, where he was attending a NATO summit along with U.S. President Barack Obama. “It may take a year, it may take two years, it may take three years. But we’re determined it has to happen.”
Kerry’s remarks came at the top of a meeting to build an anti-ISIS coalition among NATO allies. The meeting was co-chaired by Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel and the U.K.’s foreign and defence secretaries, and it included top diplomats from a variety of NATO members.
Kerry adopted a tone far beyond the caution U.S. officials had exhibited over the past week. He said there was “no contain policy” for confronting ISIS, stating equivocally that the U.S. believed the group must be destroyed through the work of an international coalition.
The military strategy toward accomplishing that, he said, would include a mix of blasting the Sunni extremist group from the air while supporting allies on the ground in Iraq and Syria.
“There is no contain policy for ISIL. They’re an ambitious, avowed genocidal, territorial-grabbing, Caliphate-desiring, quasi state within a regular army,” Kerry said. “And leaving them in some capacity intact anywhere would leave a cancer in place that will ultimately come back to haunt us. So there is no issue in our minds about our determination to build this coalition, go after this.”
Kerry said a successful coalition strategy toward defeating ISIS would include:
• An “all-military aspect,” which Kerry said would include military support to the Iraqi government. He said there were “obviously implications about Syria in this,” but he didn’t specify the military strategy for that country.
• Addressing humanitarian crises, citing aid by the U.S., France, Australia, and the U.K. to various regions in Iraq.
• Stopping the flow of foreign fighters. He said NATO would establish a multinational task force to share information about the spread of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq.
• Countering ISIS’ financing and funding, including trade in petroleum products.
• More broadly, de-legitmising ISIS’ ideology.
At the same time, Kerry made clear that NATO members would not send any “boots on the ground” at the moment. The U.S. and its allies would continue to support the Kurdish peshmerga forces and other groups in the region willing to confront ISIS, Kerry said.
“I think that’s a red line for everybody here — no boots on the ground,” he said. “Nevertheless, there are many ways in which we can train, advise, assist, and equip.”