​London hosts terror talks to combat ISIS

Reuters / Andrew Winning
London is hosting foreign officials from 21 countries to discuss a coordinated international effort to halt the efforts of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) jihadist group.

Speaking at a press conference at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the countries had a "confirmed commitment to the struggle", saying that emphasis would be placed on giving military training and humanitarian aid. He added that the offensive was "not going to fail for the want of some bullets".

Hammond has previously said although they are currently under fire from US-led coalition air strikes, more needs to be done to tackle IS, which currently controls territory in Iraq and Syria.

He said that the priorities for many of the countries attending were to find ways to stop recruits from joining IS, stemming the cash-flow, and tackling the “underlying narrative” of the group.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he had called for help from the international community, and he said his call "did not go unnoticed".

The recent shootings at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, unofficially linked to Al-Qaida in Yemen have seen politicians put under greater pressure to confront Islamist terrorism.

It is expected that leaders at the meeting on Thursday will discuss the possibility of providing more military assistance to groups, such as the Kurds, who are currently engaged in combat with the Islamic State, and the provision of further humanitarian aid.

US Secretary of State John Kerry told the press conference there was “still a lot of work to do.”

"The purpose of coming here is to bring everybody's best advice, everybody's thoughts about where there may be weaknesses, everybody's thoughts about things we can do better, put that together and lay down the strategy for the days ahead,” he said.

He referred to the Islamic State as "Daesh", which is considered deeply offensive to the group.

While the Islamic State still controls much of northwestern Iraq, Iranian-funded Shia militias have begun to reclaim some territory and are reported to be north of Baghdad. The Kurdish Peshmerga troops successfully re-captured the Mosul dam in August last year.

In Syria, however, air strikes haven’t managed to oust IS from Raqqa, nor halt their influence in neighboring areas.

Hammond said the coalition’s airstrikes were responsible for slowing the pace of Islamic State advances, but said there was a “big job ahead” in Iraq.

"The engagement of the coalition and the beginning of air strikes against [IS] positions halted that advance and in some cases it has begun to turn it back," he said.

A senior US state official maintained the effectiveness of coalition strikes had put IS on the back foot.

"[They have] gone from a force that was very much capable militarily to conduct fairly large-scale offensive operations to a force that is now digging in for defensive operations."

The official said, however, that the primary focus of the meeting would be stopping the foreign fighters currently part of the group from traveling.

Europol, the European police agency, says that roughly 5,000 EU nationals have joined the Islamic State. They are accompanied by many thousands more from Muslim and Arab states.

Hammond said that even with aid from the West, Iraqi troops wouldn’t be ready to face IS for “months.”

"We are building the Iraqi security forces from a state of disarray and poor training and poor leadership... for what will need to be a sustained offensive against [IS] forces on the ground."

"It will be months yet before they are ready to start significant combat operations."