WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed Thursday that the United States will keep fighting the Islamic State group, reassuring worried allies convened in Washington.
“The United States will continue to lead the coalition and the world on this essential security effort,” Pompeo said as he opened a day of talks in Washington.
Foreign ministers or other senior officials from 31 nations came to Washington for the meeting initiated by France after US President Donald Trump stunned them last month by announcing a US troop withdrawal from Syria.
Pompeo dwelled little on Trump’s decision but said that US forces were positioned to “make sure ISIS will never get a second wind,” using an alternative acronym for the group.
He highlighted the October 26 raid by US forces that killed the terror group’s chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as well as other leaders of the movement.
“Ask them if there’s a deficit of American leadership in fighting ISIS,” Pompeo said sarcastically.
Pompeo instead pressed for more commitment from European allies both to fund stabilization programs in Syria and take back their nationals who joined Islamic State.
“Coalition members must take back the thousands of foreign terrorist fighters in custody and impose accountability for the atrocities they have perpetrated,” Pompeo said.
He said of coalition partners, “we’ll hold them to account.”
But allies such as France and Britain have little desire to bring back extremists who are bent on creating mayhem at home and have moved to strip some of them of citizenship.
France instead has been working with neighboring Iraq on handling prosecution of foreign jihadists.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been jailing the militants in northern Syria after spearheading the fight against Islamic State.
But US officials say that dozens of extremists remain unaccounted for after Turkey, following Trump’s withdrawal decision, invaded northern Syria to assault the Kurdish guerrillas whom it links to separatists at home.