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NATO chief to discuss anti-Daesh strategy in Washington talks

French Navy Frigate Montcalm participates in NATO’s Dynamic Manta 2017 anti-submarine warfare exercise in the Mediterranean sea, Italy, recently. (Reuters)
BRUSSELS: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg headed for Washington on Monday for the first time since US President Donald Trump was elected, holding talks with senior officials about defeating Daesh, his office said.
Stoltenberg will meet US Defense Secretary James Mattis on Tuesday, then meet foreign ministers from the US-led coalition working to defeat Daesh, his office said in a statement.
He will also hold a series of unspecified meetings during the visit beginning later Monday and ending Tuesday, it added.
During a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels last month, US Vice President Mike Pence said Trump expects NATO allies to make real progress by the end of this year toward meeting the increased defense spending target agreed by the alliance.
The transatlantic alliance set a goal in 2014 of raising defense spending to two percent of GDP over a decade.
So far, of the 28 NATO members, only the US, Britain, Poland, Greece and Estonia have met the two percent target.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel has underlined Germany’s rejection of a claim by President Trump that it owes NATO large sums for underspending on defense. She has pointed to a history of decades of post-World War II military restraint.
Trump tweeted on Saturday that “Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO.” Germany is short of a NATO target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense, with the figure currently at 1.23 percent.
Merkel said on Monday that defense spending is “not just about contributions to NATO, but also about European contributions in Africa for example, UN missions.” She added: “Not a single NATO member state pays its entire defense budget into NATO.”
Merkel said that defense spending “cannot be uncoupled from historical developments from one day to the next.”