US President Donald Trump (L) at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, US, March 20, 2017.
US President Donald Trump (L) at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, US, March 20, 2017.

Foreign ministers from 68 countries meet in Washington on Wednesday to agree on the next steps to defeat Daesh, the first such gathering of the US-led military coalition since the election of President Donald Trump in November.

The meeting will be hosted by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Trump has vowed to make the fight against Daesh a priority and directed the Pentagon and other agencies in January to submit a plan for defeating the militant group.

Addressing top officials from the international coalition, Tillerson said the United States will increase pressure on Daesh and al Qaeda and work to setup "interim zones of stability" to help refugees return home inthe next phase of the battle to defeat the groups.

He did not elaborate on where the United States planned to set up these safety zones.

Daesh has been losing ground in both Iraq and Syria, with three separate forces, backed by the US, Turkey and Russia, advancing on the group's Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

The meeting is the first of the international coalition since Iraqi government forces, backed by the US-led international coalition, retook several Iraqi cities from Daesh last year and liberated eastern Mosul.

While the terror group is overwhelmingly outnumbered by Iraqi forces, it has been using suicide car bombs and snipers to defend its remaining strongholds.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, who met with Trump in Washington on Monday, said he had won assurances of more US support in the war against Daesh.

A White House statement after the meeting said both Trump and Abadi agreed that "terrorism cannot be defeated by military might alone," and the two leaders called for deepening commercial ties.

Discussions on Wednesday will also focus on how to help Mosul rebuild and ways to tackle Daesh operations in Libya and elsewhere.

In Syria, the US-led coalition has been working with the YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist organisation. Its current focus is to encircle and ultimately recapture Raqqa - Daesh's base of operations in Syria.

Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad, who is supported by Russia and Iran, has said he saw scope for cooperation with Trump, although he has dismissed the US-backed military campaign against Daesh in Syria as "only a few raids."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies