- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Top envoys from the U.S. and international coalition battling to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will meet in Washington this week to discuss the next steps in dismantling the terror group also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The three-day summit in Washington, led by U.S. Special Presidential Envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition Brett McGurk, will focus on developing a strategy to defeat the terror group after they are eventually flushed out of their respective Iraqi and Syrian strongholds of Mosul and Syria.

“These meetings are taking place at a key moment in the coordinated fight and will help shape the combined efforts to destroy ISIS,” according to State Department statement issued Tuesday.

With Iraqi security forces sweeping out remaining pockets of ISIS fighters in newly-liberated Mosul, and the operation to liberate Raqqa now in full swing, coalition members are exploring avenues on “how to accelerate Coalition efforts to defeat ISIS in the remaining areas it holds in Iraq and Syria, and maximize pressure globally on its branches, affiliates, and networks,” according to the statement.

As Islamic State jihadis looks to other corners of the world, from Southeast Asia to northern Africa, to continue its operations long after their territories in the Middle East are lost, the coalition is also looking to widen its aperture on where the next fight against the Islamic State could take place.

To that end, Mr. McGurk and his allies in the coalition have invited military officials from several African nations to participate in next week’s talks.

Representatives from the African Union, and the Multi National Joint Task Force will be in Washington for the talks, focusing specifically on the growing jihadi threat to the continent emanating from West Africa’s Lake Chad basin. The area is the de facto headquarters for Islamic State-linked terror group Boko Haram.

Arab and Kurdish forces backed by American artillery and air power are pressing deeper into the Islamic State’s self-styled capital of Raqqa, as fresh reinforcements joined last weekend the ranks of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the constellation of various Arab and Kurdish militias fighting to liberate Raqqa from Islamic State control.

As many as 1,000 militiamen have joined the fight in Raqqa, concentrating on the eastern and western front lines outside the city, an SDF spokesman told The Associated Press Sunday. The SDF, supported by U.S. special operations advisers on the ground, coupled with American fighters, bombers and heavy artillery launched the operation to retake Raqqa in early June.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, American-backed security forces claimed victory in the battle to liberate Mosul, which had been the terror group’s main hub in northern Iraq for the last two years.

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