Military commanders from the US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS) militant group will meet in Washington on Tuesday to discuss ways to halt the militant group’s relentless advance in Iraq and Syria.
Top brass, including national chiefs of staff, from 22 countries, will also meet US President Barack Obama at Andrews Air Force Base outside the US capital, the White House said.
Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, the UAE and the US will be represented.
The generals will “discuss a common vision on the counter-Daesh campaign, challenges and the way ahead,” said US Colonel Ed Thomas, spokesman for the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff.
It is the first time such high-ranking military officials from so many countries have come together since the coalition — which on paper now includes about 60 countries — was formed in September.
But US officials were tight-lipped about precisely what was expected to emerge, and said major strategy announcements were not likely.
“These are military leaders, not policy makers, so one should not expect news announcements out of this conference,” a State Department official said.
“The gathering is an opportunity to meet personally and discuss the vision, challenges and way ahead for the counter-[Daesh] campaign.”
Some partners, such as France, are pushing for concrete decisions.
French spokesman Colonel Gilles Jaron said Paris wants to “come to an agreement on key policy issues” and “to participate in the development of a joint action plan for regional focus.”
One of the ideas on the table the creation of a buffer zone along the Turkey-Syria border, which coalition members disagree about and which Washington said will probably not dominate the agenda.
Turkey and France support the creation of such a de-militarised area and on Sunday its defence minister Jean-Louis Le Drian said such a zone should be implemented urgently.
Coalition warplanes have been bombing the Daesh militants in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks, but the group continues to gain ground, threaten key towns and put pressure on Iraqi troops.
On Monday, Daesh militants fought their way into the centre of the Syrian town of Kobani near the Turkish border, sparking fears its beleaguered Kurdish residents could fall prey to the brutal group.
Iraqi ground troops are under mounting pressure in Iraq’s western Anbar province, prompting the United States to drop them military supplies and food over the weekend.