“Reflecting on the past year or so, we should be encouraged by the significant progress we as a coalition are making,” Mr. Tillerson said.
Mr. Trump has long insisted that citing “radical Islamic terrorism” is key to defeating the Islamic State. “You can’t solve a problem if you refuse to talk about what the problem is,” he said in November 2015. Yet Mr. Tillerson used those three words together only once — when he requested that Saudi Arabia and Egypt do more to combat extremism.
Instead, in front of a room full of diplomats, including many from Muslim countries where Mr. Trump’s favored phrase is viewed as offensive, Mr. Tillerson emphasized a sympathetic view of Islam. He rejected characterizations by Michael T. Flynn, the retired Army general and former national security adviser to Mr. Trump, that the religion is a “malignant cancer.”
“We also must look this enemy’s ideology in the eyes for what it is: a warped interpretation of Islam that threatens all of our people,” Mr. Tillerson said in yet another passage that could have come from the playbook. He cited King Abdullah II of Jordan, who recently said of the extremists, “Everything they are, everything they do, is a blatant violation of my faith.”
Jon Finer, chief of staff under former Secretary of State John Kerry, said Mr. Tillerson’s speech felt very familiar.
“It was good to hear both that progress continues to be made in this critical fight, and that, after months of baseless criticism, the new administration seems to have decided to stick with a strategy that is working,” Mr. Finer said.
Among those in attendance at the conclave were the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson; the Saudi foreign minister, Adel Ahmed Al Jubeir; and Qatar’s foreign minister, Mohammed Abdulrahman Al-Thani.
At the White House, Sean Spicer, the press secretary, said that the Trump administration “will use all of the tools of national power, in coordination with our international partners, to cut off ISIS’s funding, expand intelligence sharing and deny ISIS geographic and online safe havens,” succinctly summarizing the Obama administration’s strategy as well. ISIS is another name for the Islamic State.
If there were differences with the past administration, they were mostly in Mr. Tillerson’s emphasis on fighting the Islamic State’s online recruitment and propaganda, and in stabilizing Iraq and Syria once the militants are defeated. Over the last month, the Iraqi Army has pushed into western Mosul, the northern Iraqi city that has been a hard-fought battleground. And just this week, Syrian fighters aided by American military advisers have moved to isolate Raqqa, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital in northern Syria.
“We will continue to facilitate the return of people to their homes and work with local political leadership,” Mr. Tillerson said, adding, “As a coalition, we are not in the business of nation-building or reconstruction.”
Mr. Tillerson urged the diplomats gathered at Foggy Bottom to do more. He said the United States had so far provided 75 percent of the military resources and 25 percent of the humanitarian support used against the Islamic State.
“The United States will do its part, but the circumstances on the ground require more from all of you,” he said.
The only clear difference between the Obama strategy and that of the Trump administration has been a loosening of restrictions on airstrikes. The potential downside of that change came the day before the conference opened, when at least 30 Syrian civilians were killed in an airstrike.
Richard Atwood, New York director of the International Crisis Group, said in an interview that he was worried that growing civilian casualties, as well as the Trump administration’s decision to become more bellicose with Iran, could backfire and weaken the fight against the Islamic State.
In his remarks, Mr. Tillerson was complimentary of the Iraqi government; Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq sat on stage while Mr. Tillerson spoke. It was a notable inclusion, given that Mr. Abadi was infuriated by Mr. Trump’s first executive order, which banned travel from Iraq and six other Muslim-dominated countries. In an amended order, Mr. Trump dropped the travel restrictions against Iraq. Both orders have been suspended in court proceedings.
Mr. Abadi, in his own speech, seemed to promise that money spent on reconstructing Iraq would not be wasted, since he was also fighting corruption.
“Corruption and terrorism are a common plague,” he said.