​Public ‘weary’ of war – Hammond on eve of anti-ISIS coalition conference

Britain's Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond. (Reuters/Toby Melville)
The experience of intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq has caused a “change in public mood” that must be put aside to fight Islamic State, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said.

Hammond made his comments in a speech at the Chatham House foreign policy think-tank, ahead of Tuesday’s meeting in Paris of foreign ministers from the Global Coalition against Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL).

In a released copy of the speech, Hammond said of Britain’s role in the alliance: “As a leading member of the global coalition against ISIL, carrying out the second-largest number of air strikes in Iraq, we will be meeting in Paris with our coalition partners to assess the campaign that is under way to degrade and destroy ISIL – including reviewing the successes and the setbacks since our last meeting in January in London.

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He added: “This terrorist group’s deplorable actions have caused severe human suffering in Iraq and Syria. Today’s conference is an opportunity to reaffirm our support for Iraqi forces, and assess what more we can do as a coalition.

I will discuss with key partners the military campaign and the coalition’s efforts to cut off ISIS’s finances, reduce the flow of fighters, undermine their brutal ideology and stabilize areas liberated from ISIL,” Hammond said.

The foreign secretary also said he wanted to use the conference to see “what more we can do.

As well as contributing the second-highest number of airstrikes, the UK already has around 100 British troops in the region in mentoring and training roles, mostly with Kurdish irregular forces.

On Sunday, it was reported that the UK’s National Security Council, composed of politicians, senior military officers and intelligence chiefs, is considering whether to increase the number of UK troops committed to training tasks.

Ahead of the meeting, which will include the 22 core nations of the 63-strong coalition known as the Small Group, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov aired his view of the intervention as a whole, branding it a US “mistake.”

READ MORE: US-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq, Syria 'mistake' - FM Lavrov

In a live interview, Lavrov told Bloomberg: “Unfortunately, when the Americans announced this crusade against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, they never came to the Security Council, they just announced the coalition and they announced that the Iraqi government gave its consent.

I believe it was a mistake. I think that just an obsession with the personality of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad is not bringing any good to the common cause of fighting terrorism.

The Russian foreign minister reiterated the country’s position on resolving the conflict in the region.

We certainly believe that only a political settlement is possible for Syria, and we also believe that the Geneva communique three years ago is the basis [for this],” he said.