WASHINGTON, Oct. 31, 2015 —
While Russia is "doomed to fail" in Syria, the goal of the U.S. remains defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in both Syria and Iraq, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Friday in Alaska.
It appears Russia has not "thought through very thoroughly" its actions in Syria, Carter said. While Russia said it was going to fight ISIL, it is not doing that, he said.
Moscow is instead, Carter explained, supporting the Assad regime and "fueling the very civil war that leads to extremism, which ISIL represents, and which the Russians say they fear."
Carter, who spoke during a media availability at Fort Wainwright on his way to the Asia-Pacific region, added that the Russians "have a strategy that is doomed to fail."
Pressure on Terrorists in Raqqa, Syria
Raqqa, Syria, needs to be retaken and returned to its citizens so they can have a "decent way of life, which they're not enjoying under the barbaric rule of ISIL now," Carter told reporters.
The United States and its coalition partners are working to degrade the capacity of ISIL through targeting its supply routes, logistics and leadership.
Ultimately, the objective is to reclaim territory and defeat ISIL for good, the defense chief said.
"That has to happen, because it's not safe or decent to allow ISIL to exist and rule over that part of the world, let alone threaten our own people and the rest of the world," he said.
Russian Aggression in Europe
Russian activities are of concern to the United States and its partners, Carter said.
"There's no question that Russia has gotten more assertive militarily in recent years, and you see that reflected in activities in the Arctic, including flights near Alaska, which is one of the reasons why Alaska air capabilities are so important," he said.
The secretary said Russia was involved in "aggression in Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea," as well as "aggressive and intimidating behavior with respect Europe."
The United States and its NATO allies, Carter explained, are increasing their presence in Europe and have taken steps in the last six months to respond to Russian activities.
There are a number of things being done in Europe, according to Carter, that "we didn't have to do for 25 years since the Cold War ended, because we didn't worry about conflict in Europe."
But now, he said, "we have to worry about deterring aggression in Europe."
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)