By Mick Krever, CNN
The West must include ISIS’s Syria stronghold in its effort to defeat it, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Friday.
There is “no doubt that Syria and Iraq should be looked upon as a whole. Many of the problems originate from the internal conflict in Syria. There is a clear spill over to the region.”
“And that’s why I think the international community will have to address these problems as a whole.”
The United States said at the conclusion of a NATO summit on Friday that it would seek to assemble a coalition to confront ISIS. President Barack Obama has said that the goal is to “degrade and destroy” ISIS.
But the White House has not said yet whether Syria, a country President Obama has long been wary of becoming involved in military, would be included its efforts.
“It has been very hard to see a military solution to the conflict in Syria,” Rasmussen said. “And still I think a long-term, sustainable solution will take a strong political and diplomatic effort.”
“But the bottom line is that we have seen the rise of this terrorist organization, the Islamic State, that has committed horrific atrocities, and now I see it as an obligation for the international community to stop it, to defeat it, and take the necessary steps to that end.”
Rasmussen said that he saw a “strong political will” at the NATO summit to do what it takes to stop ISIS.
He would not go into details about what the allies had discussed, but emphasized ISIS is a threat not only to the region, but to the entire world.
“The international community has I would call it an obligation to take the necessary steps to defeat this terrorist organization.”
“A number of allies will try to establish a coalition to also take military action against this terrorist organization, the so-called Islamic State. And I really welcome that, because we need a military operation to stop the Islamic State from advancing further.”
‘They must stop their support’
ISIS of course is not the only issue facing NATO. The organization is getting back to its roots, determining how to deal with Russia and its incursion into Ukraine.
Friday brought news of a cease fire between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists.
“I hope this declaration of a cease fire could be the start of a constructive political process,” Rasmussen said.
“There is no doubt that the Russians must withdraw their troops from Ukraine, from the Ukrainian border; they must stop the flow of weapons and fighters into Ukraine; they must stop their support for armed separatists; and engage in a constructive political dialogue.”
He told Amanpour that the NATO measures the number of regular Russian troops present in eastern Ukraine “in several thousands.”
NATO this week announced the creation of a new reaction force that will be able to respond to any incursions into Eastern Europe in two days.
“We have seen that the Russians can act very speedily, and obviously we will have to adapt to that. And I think it has a strong deterrent effect that any potential aggressors knows that if they were to attack a NATO ally, they would meet troops not only from that specific country, but from the NATO alliance as a whole.”
Encouraging Afghan signs
This NATO summit was originally intended to focus on Afghanistan; it is the last such meeting before NATO forces are set to withdraw from the country at the end of this year.
The two presidential candidates in that country, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, are locked in a standoff over elections earlier this year.
“Actually we received a quite encouraging political message from the two presidential candidates that they will do their utmost to reach a political agreement,” Rasmussen said. “And that was highly appreciated by the participants in our meeting.”
Both candidates have vowed to sign an agreement to keep some Western forces in the country after 2014. Until one is in office, of course, neither can sign.
“I think the presidential candidates know very well that a lot is at stake, because if they don’t find a solution soon, and if there will be no signature soon on the necessary security agreements, then we can’t stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014.”