WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2016 —
The savage gunmen of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant who opened fire in Paris in November “attacked us all,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today at the École Militaire in Paris.
Carter met with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in the French capital and discussed the U.S.-led military coalition’s counter-ISIL campaign plan involving land, sea, air, and cyberspace.
Within hours of the ISIL attacks on Paris, Carter noted, the two defense leaders discussed how to drive their military alliance forward. Both nations later signed a “special instruction” to their military intelligence organizations to share intelligence targeting ISIL’s defeat.
“We all must have a common campaign plan that the entire coalition understands and that our enemies cannot survive,” he said. “The military actions that the United States, France, and our coalition partners have taken in recent months have allowed the campaign to gather momentum, and to apply pressure to ISIL in Iraq and Syria on more fronts than at any other point in the campaign.”
But defeating ISIL won’t be easy, Carter said.
“ISIL is a cancer that’s threatening to spread. And like all cancers, you can’t cure the disease just by cutting out the tumor. You have to eliminate it wherever it has spread, and stop it from coming back,” he said.
The secretary outlined the coalition’s military campaign plan, which focuses on three military objectives: destroying ISIL in Iraq and Syria by collapsing its power centers in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqah, Syria; combating emerging ISIL clones worldwide; and protecting other nations from attack.
The coalition is meeting the first goal by enabling motivated, local forces on the ground to defeat ISIL and sustain its defeat by providing a clear military campaign plan and decisive leadership, Carter said. The coalition brings capabilities from airstrikes, special forces, cyber tools, intelligence, equipment, mobility and logistics, training, advice, equipment and assistance from those on the ground, he added.
The campaign will first collapse ISIL’s control of Raqqah, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, and then “engage in elimination operations through other territories ISIL holds in Iraq and Syria,” Carter said.
The stepped-up campaign has already produced results from local forces as they take ground back from the enemy, Carter said.
“Our strikes are dismantling ISIL’s war-sustaining finances, targeting its oil production and its industrial base,” he said. “Together, we will continue these kinds of operations as part of the overall effort to degrade its financing.”
The U.S.-led coalition is significantly constraining ISIL’s ability to defend and attack, and “we are working with our partners to take advantage of every opportunity this presents,” Carter said.
Similarly, in Syria, the coalition is combining the air campaign with local forces’ support to isolate and pressure the terrorist group, he said.
Special operators are generating a cycle of actions to help identify and marshal the strength of more local forces, more intelligence, garner new tactical and operational ideas, and flush ISIL out into the open -- shrinking its power base, its finances and its space to maneuver, the secretary said.
ISIL must and will be defeated in Syria and Iraq in a lasting manner to ensure such extremism does not recur and emerge from the same places after the campaign, Carter said. The defeat of ISIL must involve motivated and capable local forces, he said.
“We’re giving them training, advice and assistance in modern warfare, including engineering and logistics,” Carter said, “And we are prepared to do more where and when we can have an additional strategic effect.”
And such training will be critical as the Peshmerga approach Mosul from the north to close with the Iraqi security forces and counterterrorism service approaching from the south, the secretary said.
Reaching and retaking Mosul will not be easy, and it will not be quick, Carter said. But the recent success of the Iraqis taking back Ramadi is evidence that training, advising, and assisting is the right approach.
Defeating ISIL is a global undertaking because the terrorist group presents a global threat, Carter said.
“Any nation that cares about the safety of its people or the future of its civilization must know this: The United States and strong partners like France will continue to lead the fight, but there can be no free riders,” he said, calling on coalition partners and all nations to accelerate the campaign.
The secretary announced that the full coalition will meet next month in Brussels for its first meeting of defense ministers, “to further align our efforts, including the resources needed for the fight ahead. France is already contributing greatly, as are several other nations. Many other nations can do more.”
When the coalition meets, “every nation must come prepared to discuss further contributions to the fight,” Carter said. “And I will not hesitate to engage and challenge current and prospective members of the coalition as we go forward.”
Russia and Iran, two nations that have been “on the wrong side of this fight,” Carter said, can make a difference by “stopping their unending support for [Syrian President] Bashar Assad, a chief instigator of radicalism and terrorism in Syria, and instead support a timely political transition ending that disastrous civil war.”
The secretary said he’s reached out to more than 40 nations’ defense ministers to help enhance the fight with more special operations forces, more strike and reconnaissance aircraft, weapons and munitions, training assistance, and more combat support and combat service support.
“We also need the full involvement of every government, not just every military. That means greater diplomatic, political, and economic engagement. It means development and reconstruction,” Carter added.
Muslim-majority nations in particular must step forward and help debunk “ISIL’s false claims to religious or ideological excuses for brutality,” he said.
The Fight Elsewhere
“As we work to destroy the parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, we must also recognize that ISIL is metastasizing in areas such as North Africa, Afghanistan, and Yemen,” Carter said, adding that ISIL and similar extremist groups are continually evolving, changing focus and shifting location. He added that a nimble, flexible response is necessary to counter such threats.
“We are constantly mindful that the fundamental mission of our militaries -- as yours is as well -- is protecting our people at home,” Carter said.
In addition to conducting anti-terror operations overseas in fighting ISIL and other terrorist groups, the campaign also requires a strong and active partnership with law enforcement, homeland security, cyber defense, intelligence and more, Carter said.
“Our campaign to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat, at its source and wherever it rears its head, is far from over. But the outcome is certain,” the secretary said. “Our campaign will continue to adapt and build on our success, as ISIL’s territory decreases, its resources dwindle, and local, capable forces gain the capacity to not only win on the field of battle, but to lay the foundation for lasting security in the region, and a more secure future for the world.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)