By Lisa Ferdinando
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived Monday in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the start of a three-country trip that includes a multinational discussion on defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Mattis and Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen will co-host the meeting with senior leaders from 15 countries that are key contributors to the counter-ISIS military campaign, according to a Pentagon statement.
“We’re going to look to the future, determine what more is needed, if anything,” Mattis said to reporters on his plane en route to Denmark, adding, “and how we are going to determine that is based upon an update with the enemy situation.”
ISIS has lost a lot of ground and is on its “back foot” in both Syria and Iraq, he said. In Afghanistan, the terrorists still have strength in Nangarhar province, he said, while pointing out the emir of ISIS Khorasan was recently killed.
Mattis and Frederiksen will meet to discuss European security and the importance of the NATO alliance, according to the Pentagon statement. The secretary and Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen will meet to reaffirm the close ties between Denmark and the U.S., the statement said.
Ensuring Visible Presence in Eastern Europe
On the next stop of his trip, Lithuania, Mattis said he will “see how the German battle group is doing, call on some of the countries’ leaders and pay my respects for what they’re doing.”
Mattis said he wants to “ensure that we maintain a very visible NATO presence as we basically try to reduce the opportunity for miscalculation by anyone and buy time for the diplomats to restore tranquility and stability up in the Baltics.”
NATO is enhancing its forward presence on its eastern flank with multinational battalion-size battle groups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, on a rotational basis, according to the alliance.
Germany is leading the battle group in Lithuania, while the other battle groups are being led by Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as explained by NATO on its website.
Discussions on Somalia
Mattis said he will travel from Lithuania to the United Kingdom, where he will take part in a conference on Somalia, led by Prime Minister Theresa May.
“It is a country that’s been through very tough times,” Mattis said of Somalia, noting the United Kingdom is coordinating leading the effort to try to find a way forward with the new president of Somalia.
“It’s a tough proposition to take Somalia forward, but that is the purpose of the conference, to determine how best we can do so,” the secretary said.