U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opened a meeting of ministers from the anti-Islamic State coalition with a demand for nations around the world to take back the thousands of foreign fighters held captive in Iraq and Syria.
He also stressed that the coalition should focus on the Islamic State presence in the Sahel region and West Africa and that this could be done without jeopardising efforts to ensure that the group remained defeated in the Middle East.
Pompeo said that the recent deaths of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his deputy showed there was no U.S. leadership vacuum.
“The fight against ISIS is a long term test of will,” Pompeo told a room of representatives from about 30 countries, assuring that the U.S. would continue to the lead the coalition and the world on “this essential security effort.”
Pompeo said that U.S. troops remained in Syria to prevent the remaining Islamic State militants from recapturing oil fields.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said this week that there were still some 600 troops in Syria, in spite of President Donald Trump’s announcement of a complete withdrawal to end the “endless wars”.
Trump has faced a tremendous domestic backlash over his decision to withdraw troops from the Turkish-Syrian border, paving the way for Turkey to invade, attacking Washington’s Kurdish allies and contributing to instability.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Trump at the White House on Wednesday.
The two leaders papered over their difference on Syria and Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 air defence system from Russia.
Trump continues to hold off on legally mandated sanctions on Turkey.