Over $2 billion in new funding pledged for stabilization efforts in Iraq
Planning for the Mosul offensive was a major subject of the summits
The Obama administration is hosting defense and foreign ministers and representatives from over 40 countries Wednesday in an effort to get more help fighting ISIS.
A day after the anti-ISIS coalition announced it had dropped its 50,000th bomb in the nearly two-year campaign to root the terror group out of Iraq and Syria, the US sought to raise over $2 billion in funding to bolster Iraq and seek other help from allies to stabilize the region.
Despite the ISIS-inspired attacks that have wrought havoc across the globe over the last month, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry maintained Wednesday that progress is being made.
Carter said the coalition has “momentum in this fight,” while Kerry declared, “We are going to end the terror” of ISIS.
But Carter also acknowledged the concerns he is hearing from his counterparts.
“The biggest strategic concern of this group of defense ministers was that the stabilization and governance effort will lag behind the military campaign,” he said after meeting them at Joint Base Andrews.
Carter said that one of the subjects discussed at length by the defense ministers was “what happens after the defeat in Mosul,” Iraq, a major city seized by ISIS in 2014 and one that coalition forces hope to reclaim.
In Foggy Bottom, Kerry presided over a pledging conference for Iraq aimed at providing resources to help that country rebuild in the wake of the counter-ISIS fight.
Kerry highlighted how even as towns and cities are liberated from ISIS’s grip, Iraqis are facing a host of new and devastating humanitarian challenges in those areas.
“The new challenge that we face is securing and aiding in the recovery of a liberated area,” Kerry told the two dozen foreign ministers and ambassadors in attendance.
“It’s in our interests to make these urgently required investments because every one of us here knows that what happens in Iraq has an impact on all of our countries,” he added. “That’s the world we live in today. For better or worse, everything we do in Iraq has the opportunity to help make our security better.”
Kerry said the conference, co-hosted by the US, Canada, Germany, Japan, Kuwait and The Netherlands, raised over $2 billion for reconstruction, with about $310 million in new pledges from the US.
But a January estimate by the UN said Iraq reconstruction requirements would be closer to $4.5 billion.
The donors’ conference also largely focused on the planned Mosul offensive – ISIS’s capital in Iraq and the country’s second-biggest city.
“Up to 1.5 million people could be displaced as a result of the retaking of Mosul,” warned US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. “With the Mosul operation on the horizon, then, I think for us here today it is worth asking what we can learn from previous instances in which ISIS has been dislodged.”
In particular, Power and others at the conference spoke of the need to avoid some of the humanitarian concerns that arose after the liberation of Fallujah.
Tens of thousands of civilians fled that city during liberation efforts, putting a strain on aid groups’ resources.
Given how much bigger an objective Mosul is, analysts are concerned about the effort and scale involved in taking, rebuilding and securing Mosul.
Both Kerry and Carter expressed some optimism on the effort to liberate Mosul but did not provide a timeline.
“We are ahead of the schedule with respect to the beginnings of the operation,” Kerry said, “but I’m not going to predict when it will happen.”
Earlier Wednesday, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders highlighted the challenges involved in rooting out ISIS.
“Terrorist attacks that have recently taken place across Baghdad, even across the world, stresses the fact that we are nowhere near a total defeat of Daesh,” Koenders said, using another name for ISIS. “It’s an octopus, it’s a snake with many heads.”
Speaking after the defense chiefs’ meeting, Carter acknowledged, “We’re all going to need to do more.”
He noted that the US had sent an additional 560 troops to Iraq and said other countries had indicated they would contribute more.
“It was very encouraging to see so many countries be willing to do so much more across such a wide spectrum of capabilities,” Carter said.
Carter lauded the recent French decision to dispatch its aircraft carrier, the Charles De Gaulle, to the region to allow for additional airstrikes. He also commended Australia and the UK for deploying more resources to the region.
“We must ensure that our partners on the ground have what they need to win the fight and then hold, rebuild and govern their territory,” he said.
CNN’s Elise Labott contributed to this report.