Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has promised that the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (Isis) is tightening the screws on the militant group in Iraq and Syria. Fallon and other key defence chiefs of the anti-IS force pledged to accelerate their campaign following their discussions in Paris.
The defence chiefs of the US, France, the UK, Australia, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands met in the French capital on 20 January in order to improve the existing strategy against IS (Daesh). The military leaders said they have reached a "broad agreement" to intensify operations, although the specifics have not been announced.
Speaking to reporters, the British defence secretary said: "The object of today is to satisfy ourselves that the balance of the campaign is right...and that we can now capitalise on the setbacks Daesh has suffered in Iraq and move on to tighten the noose around the head of the snake in Syria in Raqqa," referring to the Arabic acronym of the organisation.
Fallon also expressed concerns over Russia's actions in the region targeting moderate Syrian rebels instead of aiming at IS positions. He said: "I'm increasingly disturbed by the Russian bombing. We've had estimates of several hundred civilians killed now through the use of unguided munitions in civilian areas, clearly aimed at opposition groups that are fighting [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad, and that I deplore."
The defence chiefs have also agreed they need to focus on targeting IS strongholds such as Raqqa in Syria and Iraq's Mosul. The Gulf states, which are also actively bombarding IS targets in the region, were conspicuously missing in the talks. Russia was not invited despite a strong push from Paris.
France's Defence Minister Jean-Yves Drain, who jointly hosted the discussions along with the US Defence Secretary Ash Carter, said: "Because Daesh is retreating and we have managed to affect its resources in the ground, it is the moment to increase our collective forces with a coherent military strategy."
Carter added that the US would also try to get other Sunni Arab nations on board so as to strengthen the anti-IS force. He added the military leaders of Iraq and 26 other nations – which are part of the US-led coalition – would meet in Brussels in February.