WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2016 —
Delivering a lasting defeat to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant must be a global effort, and coalition partners and others must step up their contributions to the escalating fight, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Such a lasting defeat also must be achieved and sustained by motivated and capable local forces, the secretary said, and reach beyond the military campaign to enable political stability in the region.
Carter’s stop at Fort Campbell to address soldiers assigned to the 101st Airborne Division’s headquarters and 2nd Brigade Combat Team who will deploy to Iraq later this year is part of a two-day trip this week to three military bases.
During his speech, the defense secretary said the lasting defeat of ISIL must be a global undertaking because the terror group is a global threat.
“Any nation that cares about the safety of its people or the future of its civilization must know this: America will continue to lead the fight, but there can be no free riders,” Carter added.
As the United States invests in accelerating the campaign, he said, so must every coalition partner and every nation in a position to help.
“That means greater military contributions but it also means greater diplomatic, political and economic engagement. It means development and reconstruction [and] … actions at home and abroad to disrupt, dismantle and degrade ISIL’s capabilities. It means stepping up,” the secretary said.
Carter said he has personally reached out to defense ministers in more than 40 countries seeking more special operations forces, strike and reconnaissance aircraft, weapons and munitions, training assistance and combat and combat service support.
“Many nations are already contributing greatly,” he said. “Many can do more.”
Such contributions could include accelerating their own efforts to disrupt networks that enable the flow of foreign fighters and materials through their lands, Carter said, and taking advantage of the opportunity to fight ISIL in Syria and Iraq before it becomes a more serious threat.
“For Muslim-majority nations in particular,” the secretary added, “that means stepping forward and debunking ISIL’s false claims to religious or ideological excuses for brutality.”
He added, “I have seen the strength of our coalition, and our success depends on building on that strength.”
Carter said that next week he will meet with defense ministers from six nations that play a large role in the ground and air components of the counter-ISIL campaign -- France, Australia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
“Each of these nations has a significant stake in completing the destruction of this evil organization and we must include all of the capabilities they can bring to the field,” he said.
Everyone in the Game
The secretary said that the effort to defeat ISIL includes coalition forces enabling local, motivated forces with a clear campaign plan, American leadership of the global coalition, and capabilities ranging from airstrikes, special-forces raids, cyber tools and intelligence to equipment, mobility and logistics, and training, advice and assistance from those on the ground.
Beyond the military campaign in Iraq and Syria, others must step up and meet critical challenges such as setting conditions for sustainable political stability in the region, Carter said.
“That means everybody has to be in the game,” he added, noting that those who are needed include diplomats and development experts to help the Iraqi government rebuild, and restore opportunity to Sunni regions so local people have a future worth fighting for.
Also needed, he said, are Treasury Department financial experts to cut off the flow of money to ISIL; intelligence agencies to help map ISIL’s networks, leadership and infrastructure; and experts from law enforcement and homeland security.
In Iraq and Syria, Carter said, the coalition is taking ground back from the enemy and gaining openings to take more, and denying ISIL the ability to move fighters and materiel by cutting off key transit routes to Raqqa and Mosul.
Coalition members also are dismantling ISIL’s war-sustaining finances, targeting its oil production and industrial base and using new methods to hit ISIL in its wallet, Carter said.
“Throughout Iraq and Syria we are significantly constraining its ability either to defend or to attack, and we are working with our partners to take advantage of every opportunity this presents,” he added.
A specialized expeditionary targeting force announced in December is in place, preparing to work with the Iraqis to begin going after ISIL fighters and commanders, the secretary said.
And President Barack Obama -- on the advice of Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. and U.S. Central Command Commander Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III -- ordered the most elite U.S. special operations forces to Syria to support the ISIL fight.
The threat posed by ISIL and others continually evolves, changes focus and shifts location, most recently into areas like North Africa, Afghanistan and Yemen, Carter said.
“That’s why the Defense Department is organizing a new way to leverage security infrastructure we’ve already established in Afghanistan, the Middle East, East Africa and southern Europe into a network to counter transnational and transregional threats like ISIL,” he explained.
From the troops Carter visited in Morón, Spain, in October, to those he visited last month in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, the regional nodes offer a forward presence for responding to a range of crises, the secretary said.
“This counterterrorism network is already giving us the opportunity and capability to react swiftly to incidents and threats wherever they occur,” Carter added, “and it maximizes our opportunities to eliminate targets and leadership.”
The campaign to defeat ISIL is far from over, he said, and extraordinary challenges are ahead.
The campaign will continue to adapt as, with each success, ISIL’s territory decreases, its resources dwindle, and local, capable forces gain the capacity to win the field of battle and lay the foundation for lasting security in the region and a more secure future for the world, Carter said.
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)