Military leaders from seven nations are meeting in Paris on Wednesday to discuss intensifying their assault against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, Reuters reports.
The seven states — the U.S., the U.K., France, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy — are the leading players in the U.S.-led military effort against ISIS, which began with air strikes in Iraq in August 2014 and adheres to the frequently quoted promise from President Barack Obama that there would be “no boots on the ground” in Iraq or Syria.
But there have been plenty of coalition trainers and advisers on the ground supporting local forces, and officials say they have successfully helped to weaken the militant group in the region.
“It’s not just about adding more planes, but also trainers to accelerate the speed with which local forces can retake territory against [ISIS],” an anonymous French defense official told Reuters.
Wednesday’s meeting will not have an Arab presence, however. No Arab state received an invitation to the conference in Paris, the Associated Press reports, despite a desire among coalition leaders to solicit greater support from countries in the region.
Sunni Arab support has dwindled since the early days of the military campaign against ISIS, in part because of the ongoing conflict in Yemen, where a Saudi coalition has for the past 10 months bombed Shi‘ite Houthi extremist forces that are purportedly backed by Iran. Many Sunni Arab leaders are also wary of Iraq’s Shi‘ite government, which is supported by the U.S., and critical of what is seen as U.S. trepidation in the fight against Syrian President Bashar Assad.