London, Jan 22: Iraq and its international partners have made significant gains in the fight against Islamic State militants, killing thousands of the group's fighters and 50 percent of its leadership, US Secretary of State John Kerry said.
At an anti-IS coalition meeting in London, Kerry also said Iraqi ground troops backed by almost 2,000 air strikes had retaken 700 square kilometers of territory. He said the number of IS militants killed was in the "single digit" thousands. But the US diplomat said the coalition "can do better" at stopping the militant group's flow of funds and foreign fighters and the global spread of its message.
Kerry met British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and officials from 21 countries at a one-day London conference intended to seal the cracks in the international coalition against the extremist group, which controls a large swath of Syria and Iraq. Abadi has complained recently that weapons and ammunition have not been reaching Iraqi forces fast enough and accused the world of stalling on commitments to train Iraqi troops.
"We are in this almost on our own," he told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "There is a lot being said and spoken, but very little on the ground." But after Thursday's meeting he said, "I have asked people for more support and I think my call didn't go unnoticed."
The London talks brought together officials from several Arab and Gulf states, European nations, Turkey, Australia and Canada, as well as the US and Britain. They focused on what can be done to cut off the organization's funding, stop the spread of its propaganda and stem the flow of foreign fighters to its ranks.
The meeting also allowed Iraq and its allies to present a united front after al-Abadi's complaints and Hammond's remarks earlier Thursday that Iraqi forces were in a "state of disarray" and "it will be months yet before they are ready to start significant combat operations" against the extremists. Speaking alongside Hammond and the Iraqi premier after the meeting, Kerry said the Islamic State had been "halted ... and in some cases reversed" in Iraq, despite the fact that a large area and the major city of Mosul remain in the militants' control. Another potential obstacle is falling oil prices, which Abadi said had been "disastrous" for Iraq's budget.
"We don't want to see a reverse of our military victory due to our budget and fiscal problems," he said. Hammond assured him that would not happen. "This campaign is not going to fail for the want of some guns or some bullets in the hands of the Iraqi security forces," he said.