Anti-IS coalition seeks stronger Iraqi Army

February 20, 2015 | Ghazanfar Ali Khan

Top military officials from 26 member states of the anti-Islamic State coalition, including Saudi Arabia and the US, stressed their readiness in Riyadh on Thursday to equip and strengthen the Iraqi army.
The officials also called on the coalition to improve coordination to combat terror groups that are hampering peace plans.
“The military chiefs expressed their willingness to make utmost efforts to establish peace in the Middle East,” a Western diplomatic source told local media, during a press briefing.
US Gen. Lloyd J. Austin, who heads the US-led war against IS, and Gen. Tom Lawson, Canada’s Chief of the Defense Staff, were among the senior officers attending the two-day talks.
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, second deputy premier and minister of interior, held talks with Austin, the head of the US Central Command.
In a separate meeting on the sidelines of the talks, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, minister of defense, received all defense chiefs of the countries participating in the coalition, for their fifth meeting in Riyadh.
Asked if any new plan or strategy was agreed by the military chiefs, another official source said “they are looking at a firm plan, a coordinated plan, to empower the Iraqi Army” against IS. With no nation interested in putting boots into the country, strengthening Iraq’s 200,000-strong army against tens of thousands of IS fighters remains the best option, the source said.
The meeting discussed in detail the growing IS threat, the military strategy and security situations in Iraq, Libya and Syria and other neighboring countries.
The military chiefs also exchanged notes about the challenges to ongoing operations and ways to boost and coordinate general counter-terrorism efforts in the region.
Local Australian, French, German, and British diplomats contacted by Arab News confirmed the participation of their top defense officials in the meeting, but refused to divulge details about the meeting.

Michael Ohnmacht, deputy chief of German missions, spoke about the German participation, but could not provide more information.

Nicola Woodget, press officer at the British embassy, confirmed the participation of the British Chief of Defense Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton at the meeting today, which was predominantly attended by Western allies of the Kingdom.

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Ghazanfar Ali Khan