Carter: Defense Ministers
Agree on Next Steps in Counter-ISIL Fight
By Cheryl Pellerin, DoD News,
Defense Media Activity.
Washington D.C. — (DOD
News) — July 20, 2016 — Defense ministers and other senior leaders of the
counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant coalition have agreed on next steps
in the accelerated fight against the terrorist army in Iraq and Syria, Defense
Secretary Ash Carter said today.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter, left back, listens to remarks
from French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, right back
Carter hosted the meeting, the third of its kind, at Joint
Base Andrews in Maryland for the representatives of more than 30 nations from
the coalition and NATO to discuss the ongoing military campaign against ISIL and
plans for upcoming offensives.
“In January this year, we updated our comprehensive coalition
military campaign plan, … and we've pursued a number of deliberate decisions and
actions to accelerate this plan and hasten ISIL's lasting defeat,” Carter said
during a news conference after the meeting.
Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command,
attended the meeting and joined Carter at the news conference.
Since then, he added, “in play after play, town after town,
from every direction and in every domain, our campaign has accelerated further,
squeezing ISIL and rolling it back toward Raqqa and Mosul. By isolating these
two cities, we're effectively setting the stage to collapse ISIL's control over
Accelerating the ISIL Fight
Since the first full defense ministerial in Brussels in
February, Carter said, coalition nations, including the United States, have
provided support to accelerate the campaign as local partners have made advances.
And all have agreed to do more, he said.
For the United States, President Barack Obama decided to
deploy another 560 troops to support the Iraqi security forces in their
offensive to retake Mosul. And on a visit to Iraq last week, the secretary met
with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Defense Minister Khaled al-Obaidi,
offering to share with the Iraqi forces hard-earned U.S. expertise in countering
improvised explosive devices.
Today, Carter said, Army Lt. Gen. Mike Shields, director of
the Defense Department’s Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Agency, is in Baghdad
meeting with Iraqi officials to discuss the topic.
“Destroying ISIL's parent tumor in Iraq and Syria is
necessary, but it's not sufficient,” Carter said.
ISIL's influence and activities continue to pose a threat to
all coalition countries, and today the ministers discussed how they can continue
to combat ISIL wherever it might try to take hold around the world, and how the
military campaign can best support each government’s effort to protect its
homeland and people, he said.
Iraq and Syria
On the pace of expected operations into Mosul and Raqqa,
Carter noted that positioning forces for enveloping Mosul in Iraq involves
training and equipping forces mainly in the south and then repositioning them.
“That has gone right according to plan,” Carter said,
“including the Qayyarah west seizure, which has always been part of the plan,”
and establishing the base there with help from the additional 560 U.S. troops.
In the north, it’s mostly Kurdish forces that will execute the envelopment from
the north, he added.
In Syria, the Syrian-Arab forces are fighting hard in Manbij,
and coalition forces are in a support role, advising and providing air support,
“This has been a very difficult fight,” the Centcom commander
said. “This is an area that the Islamic State is trying to hold on to, and what
I've been most impressed with is the deliberateness and the discipline with
which our partner forces have conducted themselves. They are moving slowly, they
are moving very deliberately, mostly because they're concerned about the
civilians that still remain in the city of Manbij. I think that speaks very
highly of their values and very highly of what they're about here. And I think
we've picked the right partners for this operation.”
But Carter said most of the conversation during the defense
ministers’ meeting was not about the movement of forces, which was planned a
long time ago and is going well. “Most of our conversations today were about
what happens after the defeat of ISIL in Mosul,” he added, including
stabilization and reconstruction plans and concern that the stabilization and
governance effort will lag behind the military campaign.
“Making sure there's no such lag must be a significant
strategic priority for us,” the secretary said. “We discussed it today, and it
will be an important focus of our conversation tomorrow at the State Department
with our foreign ministry counterparts.”
Tomorrow, Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry will meet
with defense and foreign ministers at the State Department.
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinDoDNews).
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