People use makeshift ferries to cross the Euphrates River in Raqqa, Syria, in July 2018, almost nine months after the city was liberated from ISIS. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Ahead of an anti-ISIS coalition ministerial meeting in Brussels on Thursday, the US's point man toured Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and northern Syria to get a better assessment of conditions on the ground.
"Spent five days in Iraq and Syria focused on completing campaign to defeat ISIS and stability in liberated areas," tweeted Brett McGurk, the US Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
Fifty-two members of the coalition representing their foreign offices will meet in Brussels on Thursday.
McGurk added: "Follow through critical."
He posted photos from northeast Syria, showing water and agriculture projects.
"Much more work to do in both countries to recover from ISIS," tweeted McGurk.
The envoy has survived three presidential administrations, since first coming to Baghdad in 2004 during the provisional authority period.
On Monday, McGurk met with Masoud Barzani in Erbil, who stepped down as the Kurdistan Region's president and commander of its security forces in 2017, but still heads the powerful Kurdistan Democratic Party.
"Mr. McGurk also made reference to the fact that the United States government will continue to support Iraq and the Kurdistan Region," read a statement from Barzani's office.
The Peshmerga were instrumental in partnering with the coalition in disputed areas, which Erbil claims, but Baghdad now controls. Additionally, the coalition used airports in Erbil and Sulaimani to provide logistical support in the three-year ISIS conflict.
Both sides discussed "the latest regional developments and the on-going efforts to exterminate the terrorists of the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and beyond."
The coalition supports the Syrian Democratic Forces in Rojava. The SDF has conducted joint border operations with the Iraqi Army, but not substantial operations with KRG Peshmerga since the Kobane liberation in 2015.
"The two sides also spoke of the developments in Syrian Kurdistan and possible collective efforts to help further stabilize their areas," added the statement from Barzani's office.
The coalition meeting in Brussels will follow a top-level NATO meeting, attended by heads of government. At last year's NATO summit, the treaty organization became a coalition member, paving the way for the training of Iraqi Security Forces and closer relations between Western militaries and the Iraqis.
In past conflicts in the Middle East, a lack of interest in sustainable stabilization allowed the re-emergence of extremist groups in the absence of strong states. In Syria, McGurk has expressed a willingness to facilitate infrastructure in areas which were liberated by the SDF from ISIS. At the same time US President Trump has called for regional countries to play a larger role in resolving the conflict.