• Coalition seeks plan to counter IS advance

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    MURSITPINAR, Turkey: Commanders from the US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS) jihadists will meet in Washington on Tuesday (Wed-nesday) to discuss halting the group’s advance in Iraq and Syria, as air strikes failed to stop militants from reaching the center of Kobane.

    IS fighters claimed nearly half of the flashpoint town, on the border with Turkey, on Monday (Tuesday in Manila)—despite more than three weeks of US-led airstrikes aimed at halting them.

    That failure will be among the main points up for discussion at Tuesday’s meeting in Washington of military chiefs from the 22 countries in the US-led coalition, as will Turkey’s call for the establishment of a protective buffer zone.

    Top brass, including national chiefs of staff, will also meet US President Barack Obama at Andrews Air Force Base outside the US capital, the White House said.

    The generals will “discuss a common vision on the counter-ISIL campaign, challenges and the way ahead,” said US Colonel Ed Thomas, spokesman for the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States will be represented.

    It is the first time such high-ranking military officials from so many countries have come together since the coalition—which, on paper, now includes about 60 countries— was formed in September.

    One of the ideas on the table is the creation of a buffer zone along the Turkey-Syria border, which coalition members disagree about and which Washington said will probably not dominate the agenda.

    But US officials were tight-lipped about precisely what is expected to emerge, and said major strategy announcements were not likely.

    In their latest air strikes, American and Saudi warplanes targeted seven sites around Kobane, the US military said, including IS staging posts used to try to cut the town off from the outside world.

    A Kobane politician who is now a refugee said IS fighters had surrounded the town to the south, east and west, and warned of a “massacre” if they take the northern front bordering Turkey.

    AFP

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