U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the battle against the terror group ISIL is not over.
Speaking in Kuwait, as part of his five-nation tour of the Middle East, Washington’s top diplomat said that despite recent military victories the coalition fighting the militant group must make sure ISIL does not spread from its bases in Syria and Iraq.
Speaking at a meeting of his counterparts in Kuwait City, Tillerson representatives from more than 70 nations that the coalition will not stop, “until we have achieved the full and enduring defeat of ISIS (Islamic State).”
The U.S. has pledged to keep troops in Syria and Iraq for the foreseeable future, despite not being invited to do so by the Syrian government and continued unease over the U.S. presence in Iraq.
And while the U.S. Secretary of State pledged 200 million dollars to help rebuild what he calls “liberated” areas of Syria, the reconstruction pledges for Iraq are lagging.
In Washington there is little appetite for more spending in the Middle East.
On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump expressed frustration at what he called seven trillion dollars of spending in the Middle East. The number is vastly inflated, but the sentiment is not.
Iraq was shattered following the 2003 U.S. invasion and the resulting occupation and civil war. Over a decade on, Iraq is still reeling.
Baghdad says it still needs a 100 billion dollars to rebuild. The U.S. has indicated it is willing to contribute around three billion, but it’s unclear where the rest of the money will come from.
Expect more pledges in the coming days while Rex Tillerson tours the Middle East, but it will likely be far short of what Baghdad says it needs.
Complicating rebuilding efforts are the deep divisions in the region. Saudi Arabia and regional rival Iran are fighting proxy battles in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and elsewhere.
Qatar is still being isolated from other Gulf nations by Riyadh, and the U.S. has seen its credibility decline recently after it unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.