Tillerson: Defeating ISIS 'No. 1 Goal' for U.S., But Others Should Do More : Parallels Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is hosting officials from 68 countries to discuss how best to take on ISIS. "As a coalition we are not in the business of nation-building or reconstruction," he said.
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Tillerson: Defeating ISIS 'No. 1 Goal' for U.S., But Others Should Do More

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Tillerson: Defeating ISIS 'No. 1 Goal' for U.S., But Others Should Do More

Tillerson: Defeating ISIS 'No. 1 Goal' for U.S., But Others Should Do More

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

At the State Department today, officials from 68 countries and organizations are coordinating plans to fight ISIS. It's the first time this coalition has met in full since 2014, and it's a chance for the Trump administration to flesh out what it wants to do differently. So far, the administration has mainly stepped up the fight that President Obama put in motion. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The language is certainly different. Iraq's prime minister says the goal of the coalition is not to contain ISIS but to, quote, "decimate it." Secretary of State Rex Tillerson put it this way.

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REX TILLERSON: Degradation of ISIS is not the end goal. We must defeat ISIS. I recognize there are many pressing challenges in the Middle East, but defeating ISIS is the United States' No. 1 goal in the region.

KELEMEN: The secretary of state spoke in a conference room decorated with flags from the coalition members and huge banners that read simply, defeat ISIS. Tillerson says the U.S. and its partners are promising more than $2 billion to help areas that have been liberated from ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

At a time of massive budget cuts to his department, though, he also made clear that he's counting on others to do more. Tillerson points out that the U.S. provides about 75 percent of the military resources in the fight and a quarter of the humanitarian resources.

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TILLERSON: As a coalition, we are not in the business of nation building or reconstruction. We must ensure that our respective nations' precious and limited resources are devoted to preventing the resurgence of ISIS and equipping the war-torn communities to take the lead in rebuilding their institutions and returning to stability.

KELEMEN: The secretary says in Iraq, the coalition will focus on clearing landmines and returning water and electricity while the Iraqi government takes the lead in rebuilding. Syria, though, is a different story. The key players there, the Syrian government and its backers Russia and Iran, are not part of this anti-ISIS coalition. Tillerson only offered some broad hints about next steps there.

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TILLERSON: While a more defined course of action in Syria is still coming together, I can say the United States will increase our pressure on ISIS and al-Qaida and will work to establish interim zones of stability through ceasefires to allow refugees to go home.

KELEMEN: President Trump has talked about possible safe zones in Syria that may require more cooperation with Russia and with Turkey, which opposes U.S. support for Kurdish forces that are fighting ISIS. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

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