US Defense Secretary James Mattis to meet counterparts in Europe visit amid new Afghan, ISIL bids

February 12, 2017 7:00 am

Defense Secretary James Mattis (L) welcomes German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen to the Pentagon on February 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

US Defense Secretary James Mattis is to meet counterparts from numerous countries during an upcoming visit to Europe as Washington considers deploying thousands of more troops to Afghanistan and devise a new strategy to battle the Daesh (ISIL) terror network.
Mattis will head to Europe on Tuesday with stops in Brussels – where he plans to host a meeting of senior officials in the so-called anti-ISIL coalition and also meet with European defense chiefs – and Germany to take part in the Munich Security Conference, a global forum of hundreds of ministers, heads of state and academic figures centered on enhancing global security, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
The development comes as US President Donald Trump has tasked the Pentagon chief with drawing a new plan within weeks for countering the terrorist group engaged in a massive terror campaign in Syria and Iraq through widely-reported financial and logistical support by the very members of the US-led coalition that claims to operate against ISIL terrorists.
The Europeans, however, have made clear that among the top agendas of the Munich conference will be how to deal with the Trump administration.
According to the confab’s website, “The conference agenda focuses on the future of trans-Atlantic relations and NATO after the election of Donald Trump, the state of European Union cooperation in security and defense matters, the Ukraine crisis and relations with Russia, the war in Syria, and the security situation in the Asia-Pacific.”
During his European tour, Mattis is expected to “develop a set of recommendations that will be submitted to the White House by the end of the month,” including changes to the battlefield rules of engagement for US troops, strategies to “isolate” ISIL terrorists “through diplomacy, cyber-operations, the development of new partners to fight the militants and finding ways to cut off the group’s funding.”
On his first visit  to the Pentagon on January 27, Trump directed Mattis to devise plans within 30 days for an accelerated campaign to defeat Daesh terrorists in Iraq and Syria.
This is while the US currently maintains nearly 5,000 troops in Iraq, with thousands of others supporting the effort against the ISIL from nearby Persian Gulf allied kingdoms such as Kuwait and Qatar, according to the report.
Iraqi and Syrian officials, however, have largely downplayed US role in their battles against ISIL terrorists in their respective countries with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad suggesting in an interview last week that Washington’s claim of battling ISIL militants is non-existent, describing the notion as “cosmetic.”
In Afghanistan, meanwhile, US Army General John Nicholson, who commands coalition troops in the war-ravaged nation, has pointed to a shortfall of a “few thousand” advisers, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday, noting that the US maintains a force of nearly 8,400 troops in the nation among a total coalition number of 13,300.
Meanwhile, Mattis met Friday at the Pentagon with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, whose country has nearly 850 troops in Afghanistan and is regarded a “framework nation” in the training and advising effort, along with Italy, Turkey and the US.
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