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Foreign ministers, diplomats to meet in Washington for talks on Islamic State

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo delivers remarks to the press at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 1, 2019. (Ron Pryzsucha/U.S. State Department)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Diplomats and foreign ministers from around the world are scheduled to meet in Washington for high-level talks on the fight against Islamic State militants.

The February 6 meeting, hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, follows President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

That decision was criticized by U.S. allies and sparked concern about a power vacuum in Syria, and the possibility that fighters from Islamic State, also known as ISIS, could regroup.

The daylong meeting features officials from the 79-member Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, which the United States assembled in 2014 as the militant groups seized vast territories of Syria and Iraq.

Ahead of the meeting, U.S. officials said the meeting was focusing on what they said was Islamic State’s imminent “territorial defeat.”

“What we’re going to try to talk about in the ministerial [meeting] is the determination of this truly global coalition as we near the end of ISIS territorial defeat….That involves the liberation of 8 million people that were under [Islamic State’s] brutal rule, about 4 million who were displaced in Iraq, as well as hundreds of thousands in Syria,” a State Department official told reporters February 4. “And they have safely returned to their homes, and we think that’s a success story.”

“Equally important is taking away [Islamic State’s] oil and revenue from taxes and oil and natural gas proceeds,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In December, Trump announced he was withdrawing the 2,000-strong U.S. force from Syria and he declared the defeat of the Islamic State group.

Aides have since walked back the timeline but said that the pullout will happen.

The U.S. envoy spearheading the coalition, Brett McGurk, resigned in protest over Trump’s decision and voiced fears for Syria’s future.