WASHINGTON — Defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is more than a one-country, one-military or one-ministry job, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in remarks this morning just before the first meeting of diplomatic, defense and civilian leaders whose nations are involved in the counter-ISIL coalition.
Carter joined Secretary of State John Kerry in welcoming attendees to the State-hosted meeting, which follows the third meeting this year of defense ministers from coalition nations, held yesterday at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
The campaign’s strategic approach is to identify and enable capable and motivated local forces that can deliver ISIL a lasting defeat, the defense secretary said.
Only local forces can deliver and sustain such a defeat, and local forces must hold and govern territory after it’s retaken from ISIL, he added.
“Thanks to our global coalition, our clear and deliberate military campaign plan, our dedicated local partner forces, and the hard work and sacrifices of our countries’ military personnel, we now have momentum in this fight and clear results on the ground,” Carter said.
Through the winter, the spring and now into the summer, the defense secretary said, “the coalition has set in motion a series of specific and deliberate steps -- the first plays of the game, as President [Barack] Obama called them.”
Since then, he said, “play by play, town after town, from every direction and in every domain our campaign has accelerated further, squeezing ISIL and rolling it back toward Raqqa, [Syria,] and Mosul, [Iraq]. By isolating those two cities, we’re effectively setting the stage to collapse ISIL’s control over them.”
Now this week, Carter added, coalition leaders are making plans and commitments that will help deliver ISIL a defeat.
Yesterday at the coalition defense ministerial the attendees agreed on the next plays in the campaign. The specifics can’t be discussed publicly yet, Carter said, but they culminate in the collapse of ISIL’s control over the cities of Mosul and Raqqa.
Next, the ministers identified the capabilities and the support required to execute those next plays, Carter said.
“Since our first full defense ministerial in Brussels in February, our nations, including the United States thanks to President Obama, have provided even more support to accelerate the campaign, as our local partners have made advances in theater. But we’re all going to need to do more,” he added.
“The United States, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, Finland and several others have recently committed -- some as recently as yesterday -- to contribute even more to the military campaign,” the defense secretary said. “It’s encouraging to see so many countries continue to be willing to do more.”
After ISIL’s Defeat
After ISIL’s defeat, Carter said, there will be towns to rebuild, services to reestablish and communities to lead, and the coalition and many others must ensure that the Iraqi and Syrian people have what they need to hold, stabilize and govern their territory.
“For that reason, we cannot -- let me repeat that -- we cannot allow the coalition’s stabilization and governance efforts to lag behind our military progress. That was one of the biggest strategic concerns voiced at yesterday’s defense ministerial, and it will surely be discussed again here today,” he added.
The defense secretary also commended Kerry, his team and the members of the coalition for the work they’re doing to enhance stabilization efforts, including raising more than $2 billion at yesterday’s pledging conference to help in Iraq’s rebuilding.
“Destroying ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria is necessary, but it’s not sufficient,” Carter said. “That’s why yesterday we also discussed how we can continue to combat ISIL wherever it might attempt to take hold and how our military campaign can best support our national governments’ efforts to protect our respective homelands and people.”