Two months after the start of its campaign against the Islamic State, the U.S.-led coalition conducting operations in Iraq and Syria has expanded significantly but remains beset by lingering strategic differences that threaten to undermine the fight.
The Obama administration has emphasized the breadth of the coalition it has assembled to combat the militant group, including the participation of five Arab countries that have played a supporting role in the campaign of airstrikes in Syria. But serious disagreements remain, particularly over the coalition’s plan for Syria and whether the fight against Islamic State militants there will strengthen or weaken Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad in the long run.
Military chiefs from the United States and 21 other countries convened Tuesday for an unusual session at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to discuss the campaign. The day-long event, hosted by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, included an appearance by President Obama — part of an effort by his administration to dispel doubts about Washington’s long-term commitment to the region.