WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2014 —
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant poses a threat to the civilized world, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in Sydney today.
At a joint news conference, Hagel and Australian Defense Minister David Johnston spoke about what their respective countries are doing in Iraq.
The United States will continue to support the Iraqi security forces “in every way that we can,” Hagel said. “We will, again, build partnerships, as we are now, recognizing the threat not just to the United States, but to the civilized world.”
The United States has launched airstrikes against ISIL targets in recent days, and has airdropped relief supplies to tens of thousands of Yezidis who have fled to Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq to seek refuge. American teams in Iraq will continue to assess the ISIL threat and what will best help the Iraqi security forces, Hagel said.
Australia is participating alongside the United States in airdropping supplies to the Yezidis -- members of a religious sect in the region.
“We have some good skills in terms of the capacity to drop aid packages from the back of a C-130 Hercules,” Johnston said. “We acquired those skills over many years, but predominantly in the mountains around East Timor and Dili. And so, we’ve got ourselves deployed to be able to slot into American planning in that regard for the people that are entrapped in the mountains around Erbil in northeastern Iraq.”
The Australian defense minister remained mum on whether his country will launch airstrikes against ISIL. “With respect to … muscling up, we don't telegraph our punches in any shape or form, and there’s been no request for us to participate in combat,” he said. “The situation for us at the moment is we are committed to helping the Americans and our friends who will join the Americans in providing humanitarian and disaster relief.”
Other countries have offered to assist in the effort in Iraq. President Barack Obama spoke yesterday to
French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
“This is a humanitarian issue of great consequence for all the world,” Hagel said. “And I think great powers understand they have responsibilities in this area.”
Hagel said the airstrikes against ISIL have been very effective.
For up-to-the-minute coverage of the secretary’s overseas trip, follow the Defense Department’s official Twitter account, @DeptofDefense.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)