NEWPORT, Wales: NATO leaders grappled Thursday with whether the alliance has a role in containing the mounting threat posed by ISIS as Britain weighed up joining the U.S. in arming the Kurds.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, hosting a two-day NATO summit in Wales, said he was not ruling anything out in the effort to “squeeze” ISIS “out of existence,” but signaled Britain would not join U.S. airstrikes before a new Iraqi government is in place.
The U.K. has so far carried out aid drops and surveillance and transported military supplies to Kurdish regional forces allied with the Baghdad central government.
Other European countries, including Germany, France and Italy have already agreed to send Kurdish forces a quantity of light weapons to use against the militants who have swept into northern Iraq.
“We’re prepared to do more and we’re considering actively whether to give them arms ourselves and whether we can do more directly to train Kurdish militia – we’re already playing a role there but we can do more,” Cameron told ITV.
“What is required is a strategy to help those on the ground and to have an Iraqi government there that can make a difference, Kurdish forces that can make a difference and then we ask what more we can do to help them. It needs to be that way round.”
Iraq’s Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi said last week he was optimistic about forming a new government soon.
Abadi is tasked with forming a power-sharing administration to ease tensions and counter ISIS militants who pose the biggest security threat to Iraq since a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Speaking as he arrived at the summit, NATO chief Ander Fogh Rasmussen said the body would also consider stepping up assistance for Iraq in its fight against ISIS.
“We will discuss what individual allies and what NATO can do to counter the threat from the terrorist organization, so-called Islamic State [ISIS],” he said.
“We haven’t received any request for NATO engagement. I’m sure that if the Iraqi government were to forward a request for NATO assistance, that would be considered seriously by NATO allies,” he said.
Cameron and President Barack Obama declared their nations would “not be cowed” by extremists from ISIS. “Those who want to adopt an isolationist approach misunderstand the nature of security in the 21st century,” Obama and Cameron wrote in a joint editorial in the Times of London. “Developments in other parts of the world, particularly in Iraq and Syria, threaten our security at home.”
Obama also met Thursday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East that’s caught in the region’s instability.