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Kerry calls for new measures to counter ISIS

US Secretary of State on Thursday called on partners in the coalition against ISIS to increase intelligence sharing

Published: Updated:

US officials on Thursday called on partners in the coalition against ISIS to increase intelligence sharing as the militant group morphs to focus on attacks beyond its shrinking self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

“Even as it is losing ground in the Middle East, we know already that they’re going to try to transform themselves into (a) global terrorist organization,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said after a meeting of defense and foreign affairs chiefs from about 40 nations in the US-led coalition.

“We talked about the importance of real-time communication between countries, information sharing” about militant suspects, he said. Kerry said that issue dominated the afternoon’s discussions, which for the first time included the international police organization Interpol.

He and other officials suggested that wresting control of ISIS’s major remaining strongholds in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria is only a matter of time. Brett McGurk, the United States’ envoy to the coalition, told the meeting that the liberation of Mosul “is now in sight.”

But a spate of recent attacks globally claimed or apparently inspired by ISIS, such as a truck attack in Nice, France, that killed 84 people last week, formed a grim backdrop to two days of Washington meetings aimed at combating the group.

The meetings were meant as a show of unity in the coalition, whose members have sometimes differed on strategy. But last weekend’s coup attempt in Turkey has raised questions about that key country’s focus on the fight. Turkey’s foreign and defense ministers did not attend the sessions, but Kerry said a top official from Ankara assured the group that Turkey’s commitment to the fight against ISIS would not be affected.

Kerry said breaking down bureaucratic barriers was crucial to allow more sharing of information about threats as ISIS seeks to boost recruitment by adopting new languages and moving into new territories. While improvements have been made, “it is also clear now that we have to do more,” he said.

The goal, Kerry said, is “that a border guard in southern Europe has the same data about a terrorist suspect as an airport security officer in Manila.” Iraqi and US officials have not announced a timetable for an expected assault on Mosul. But a senior Baghdad-based diplomat told Reuters that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi wants to advance the start of the campaign to October.

US, Iraqi and UN officials have warned that the battle will unleash a flood of displaced Iraqis, necessitating a massive effort for short-term aid and longer-term stabilization. Iraqi Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi said less than 10 percent of Iraqi territory remains in ISIS’s hands, but battlefield advances have not been matched by security gains.