Dubai: The American government is not shirking its duty in fighting terrorism across the Middle East and remains an engaged partner with the UAE to fight Daesh and Al Qaida, a top US State Department official said on Wednesday.
Mark Toner, deputy spokesperson for the State Department, told delegates gathered for the 15th annual Arab Media Forum that the US is committed in the long term to the region and its stability during a session titled ‘US-Arab Diplomacy: The Way Forward’.
Toner was responding to a query on whether the US response to terrorism was mute following its withdrawal from Iraq and the ensuing rise of Daesh amid Syria’s civil war.
Toner said that “any idea or notion that the US is going to disengage from the region is false”. Referring to the recent meeting of US President Barack Obama with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders, Toner said it was a good opportunity to discuss key security and strategic issues. “We need to stay involved in this region.”
The American government realises that after the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq, “the general government was not strong enough to provide infrastructure for the people”.
That said, Toner noted that the US is working tirelessly with Russia toward a lasting Syrian ceasefire in addition to ongoing efforts to eradicate Daesh’s shrinking toehold in the war-torn Syria.
The US has “put tremendous pressure on Daesh in the last three months”, Toner said, noting that the group has lost 40 per cent of its holdings. “We realise we need to take more aggressive steps to address it.”
Russia has a shared interest in bringing stability to Syria given fears of a power vacuum that would be left in the wake of the current Syrian powerbrokers’ exit, he said.
Toner said that the US is working hard with GCC partners such as UAE and Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism not only in Syria and Iraq but also in Yemen where talks are ongoing to not only oust Al Qaida but restore the legitimate government to power.
The United States, he said, has commended Saudi Arabia, leader of the Arab coalition fighting in Yemen, for its efforts in Yemen. “The goal is that we all address these challenges together in united fashion,” he said.
Toner said the UAE and Saudi Arabia have taken a lead role in confronting security challenges. “It is not a US-led operation, but we did provide support.”
Daesh, he said, is a common threat to the region that needs to be confronted. “Over the past year, the coalition has done a pretty good job — but needs to do more.
“In Syria, the situation on the ground is very fluid… very fragile. We recognise we have to work with Russia. We recognise Russia needs to be part of the solution,” Toner added.
In a meeting with reporters beforehand, Toner lauded the UAE as an example for countries to follow on a number of fronts ranging from security and its economy to seeking peaceful nuclear energy generation.
Toner noted that nuclear non-proliferation has been a hallmark of the Obama administration for the last two terms, topped with the latest Iran nuclear agreement, in which the latter has agreed to inspections of its nuclear energy programme.
The US is still deeply concerned regarding renegade nuclear state North Korea and the news on Tuesday that it is now capable of sending a miniature warhead on short and medium intercontinental missiles, Toner said.
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