WASHINGTON, May 4, 2016 —
Defense ministers who represent core countries contributing to the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant all agreed that they will continue to do more to accelerate ISIL's lasting defeat, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today in Stuttgart, Germany, after the group’s second meeting.
The ministers, who first met Jan. 20 in Paris, represented Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“There was common recognition around the table that we all must be prepared to do more as we work with local, motivated and capable partners in Iraq and Syria,” Carter said. “That’s our strategic approach -- to implement the next plays of the coalition's military campaign.”
Actions Now in Play
Carter said actions now in play include stabilizing Iraq's Anbar province; generating Iraqi security forces, including peshmerga forces in the north, by training, equipping and positioning them; enveloping the city of Mosul; identifying and developing more local forces in Syria that can isolate and pressure the nominal ISIL capital of Raqqa; and providing more firepower, sustainment and logistics support to partners so they can collapse ISIL control over both cities.
“The United States … is already taking a number of key actions in Iraq and Syria to enable these next plays,” Carter said. Many of these I announced last week after [President Barack Obama’s] approval of them.”
In Iraq, the United States is placing advisors with Iraqi forces at brigade and battalion levels to enhance decision-making and responsiveness, leveraging Apache attack helicopters to support Iraqi efforts to envelop and retake Mosul, sending more rocket-artillery systems to support the Iraqi ground offensive, and providing $415 million to the peshmerga, one of the most effective fighting forces against ISIL, the secretary said.
“To do all this,” he added, “we're going to adjust how to use U.S. forces in Iraq and immediately bring in about 215 more of them.”
In Syria, the Defense Department increased U.S. forces from 50 to 300, using the extra 250 personnel, including special operations forces, to help expand ongoing efforts to identify, train and equip capable, motivated, local anti-ISIL forces there, especially among the Sunni Arab community, Carter said. And U.S. special operations forces will be able to incorporate partner special operations forces from other countries to augment coalition counter-ISIL efforts there, he added.
During the meeting in Stuttgart, the ministers began by discussing the situation on the ground in Iraq and confirmed the importance of an accelerated push to ultimately retake Mosul, the secretary said.
“We all recognized the need for economic and political, as well as military contributions, because much still hinges on nonmilitary aspects of countering ISIL,” he said. “Support for stabilization, multisectarian governance and reconstruction all will be critical to ensuring that ISIL stays defeated after it is defeated in Iraq.”
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian led a discussion of the state of the campaign in Syria. The ministers reviewed recent operational gains by local coalition-supported forces and discussed the importance of closing off the Manbij area to ISIL, given the flow of foreign fighters there and the potential for external plots against coalition members and nations, Carter said.
The ministers also discussed more resources needed to support coalition partners in the next steps of the campaign in logistics, trainers, ammunition, special operations forces, sustainment and medical supplies, spare parts for Iraqi equipment and support for stabilization efforts as the campaign frees territory from ISIL control.
“I’m confident,” Carter said, “that today's meeting will accordingly produce additional military commitments.”
The fight is far from over, and great risks remain, he added.
“We were reminded of this yesterday when an American service member, Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Keating, a Navy SEAL, was killed while providing advice and assistance for the peshmerga forces north of Mosul who were directly in the fight,” the secretary said.
“We greatly regret his loss, Carter added, “but allowing ISIL safe haven would carry greater risk for us all.”
Carter said the ministers agreed to meet again this summer in Washington, along with their counterparts from other partners in the counter-ISIL effort.
“That will allow these discussions to continue and widen,” the secretary added, “with all the other partners -- for example the Gulf partners, with whom I had discussions two weeks ago in Riyadh in advance of the president's summit there. Together, we will -- we must -- deliver ISIL a lasting defeat.”