U.S. signals UK may join anti-ISIS fight in Syria

U.S. General says Britain may join U.S. 'shoulder to shoulder' in fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq

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Britain may join its American ally "shoulder to shoulder" in its battle against militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), indicated U.S. General and presidential envoy John Allen on Wednesday.

"We were shoulder to shoulder in Iraq, we were shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan," Allen, who is coordinating the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS, told the BBC show Newsnight.

"We are in close consultation now as the strategy begins to unfold with respect to dealing with ISIL [ISIS], and I suspect we'll be able to say shortly that we're shoulder to shoulder here as well," Allen said, using another name for ISIS.

Although British fighter jets are taking part in the international coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq, the British government remains resistant to getting involved in war-torn Syria.

"Well they will support us I think in the strategy [the British] … That's a conversation we're having right now," said Allen when asked about whether the British would get involve in Syria.

London was the first stop in a series of meetings in Europe and the Middle East as the general seeks to rally opposition to the jihadist group.

ISIS has declared an Islamic "caliphate" in the large areas it controls in Iraq and Syria, and has killed hundreds of people and beheaded a series of foreign hostages.

Allen said that training of opposition groups on the ground would continue, as in the Syrian town of Kobane where a fight between IS and Kurdish fighters backed by airstrikes has become a key battleground.

However, Allen said that physical force was not enough to tackle the problem.

"It's not enough to defeat ISIL [ISIS] in a physical manner, we have to defeat the idea of ISIL [ISIS]," Allen said. "We all need to come together to deal with the underlying causes that generate extremism."

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said after meeting Allen that "tackling the threat posed by ISIL [ISIS] demands a long-term, comprehensive and coordinated international response."

"In both Iraq and Syria, people want stable, inclusive, non-sectarian governments that can provide prosperity and security, but instead they find themselves on the front line in resisting terrorists and extremists," Hammond said in a statement.

"The UK and its allies will continue to support them and to play a strong and active part in the international coalition that is degrading ISIL."

"Both our national security and the security of the region depend on tackling this scourge."

The U.S. has repeatedly emphasized the importance of regional allies in the fight against IS, and Allen will next travel to France for meetings, followed by a trip to several gulf states who have backed airstrikes including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates.

[With Agence France Presse]

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