Defense Secretary James Mattis has said that the US would step up its efforts to defeat Islamic State (Isis) militants in Syria and Iraq, and would discuss sending ground troops to the war-torn countries if the need arises.

On Thursday (16 February), Mattis attended his first counter-IS (Daesh) ministerial meeting at Nato headquarters in Brussels, where he said that all member nations are "united" in the fight against Islamic State (Isis). He also called for sustained efforts to defeat the Islamist militant group.

In a press conference held after the meeting, the defence chief said that Pentagon was discussing sending conventional ground troops to Syria and Iraq to speed up counter-IS operations. Without ruling out the possibility, Mattis said that he would first talk to allies as he was not "comfortable" taking up the issue with President Donald Trump before holding discussions with Nato alliance members, according to

The defence chief also told reporters that consultations with allies from some Middle Eastern countries are likely to begin following a security conference in Germany on Friday (17 February). "I'm going to fly from here into the Middle East. Once we know what we have in a mutual appreciation of the situation, then we'll go forward," he said.

"We are not in a position right now to collaborate on a military level, but our political leaders will engage and try to find common ground or a way forward so that Russia, living up to its commitment, can return to a partnership of sorts here with NATO."

At the Nato meeting, the defence chief pointed out that the goal of the congress was to "orchestrate the international pressure on our terrorist enemy and enhance the current counter-[IS] fight". He added: "This is not something that will be over with quickly, but we certainly intend to accelerate this fight, one of the reasons we're here today is to lay this out to you."

However, on Wednesday (15 February), Mattis had warned the alliance that the US will "moderate" its commitment to the bloc unless all other member nations meet the 2% defence spending criteria.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, said at the meeting that IS and terrorism were the most pressing challenges for the bloc, but reassured its commitment towards defeating the militant group.

"This coalition has an unwavering commitment to see this fight to its conclusion." Defeating IS "is a global generational challenge that requires a global generational response," the Nato chief said, emphasising on cooperation from each member of the alliance.

James Mattis Asia trip
US Defence Secretary James Mattis will discuss with allies if US ground troops are needed to defeat Isis militants in Iraq and Syria - File photo Jonathan Ernst/Reuters