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Defense Ministers Meet to Discuss Coalition to Counter ISIL

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2016 — In Brussels, Defense Secretary Ash Carter today hosted a meeting of defense ministers from countries contributing troops to the global coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

According to a joint statement released by the attendees, defense ministers from Belgium, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States were in attendance. Australia, the Czech Republic and Singapore also sent senior representatives and intend to provide forces or other support to the campaign, the statement noted.

During the meeting, the ministers discussed the military campaign plan, took stock of recent efforts to accelerate the counter-ISIL operation in Iraq and Syria, considered a shared approach against ISIL's global ambitions, and examined ways to ensure the protection of their nations’ citizens, the statement said.

The defense leaders paid tribute to the efforts of all Iraqi security forces, including the peshmerga and Sunni tribal forces, and moderate Syrian opposition forces who are fighting ISIL and have caused numerous tactical defeats of ISIL in recent months, the statement said. They also acknowledged the coalition force commander's assessment that these successes mark the transition of the counter-ISIL campaign, the statement said.

However, the statement said, the ministers also acknowledged that significant work remains to be done to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIL and the restoration of stability in Iraq and Syria. The defense leaders called on those states playing a counterproductive role in the fight against ISIL and the Syrian peace process to play a more constructive role, the statement said.

Counter-ISIL Campaign Plan

The defense ministers provided broad support for the objectives of the counter-ISIL campaign plan and reaffirmed their governments' unwavering commitment to work together against ISIL, the statement said.

They also agreed, “as a matter of urgency, to accelerate and intensify the campaign, in order to deliver a lasting defeat to this barbaric organization as quickly as possible,” the statement continued. “We also recognized that recent battlefield successes provide an opportunity to gather additional momentum in our campaign as we enter the next phase of dismantling [ISIL's] operating capability throughout Iraq and Syria.”

To that end, the statement said, “coalition members highlighted the importance of turning ISIL's purported strengths into its greatest weaknesses.”

Specifically, coalition members underlined the importance of collapsing ISIL’s two power centers in Raqqah and Mosul and continuing to target its underlying infrastructure, including its financial capability, the statement added.

Resources

The defense leaders noted the substantial resources provided by coalition members that have enabled progress in the military campaign and thanked those nations that have, from the start of the campaign, demonstrated leadership and support, the statement said.

They also welcomed the many countries that have increased their contributions since the horrific attacks in Paris, Turkey and other locations since the last quarter of 2015, it said. Those contributions have come in the form of additional air assets, increased commitments or extended operations to Syria, additional trainers, special operations forces, personnel recovery assets and additional material support, the statement noted.

Other nations have committed to restarting flights in the near future or have embarked on national conversations to increase in one or more of these categories, including additional police trainers to expand the current police training effort led by Italy, the statement said.

In addition to what has been provided, the statement said that the defense leaders agreed on an “enduring set of requirements that will be needed to expand efforts against [ISIL] -- and welcomed the Coalition Chiefs' of Defense Conference and the Coalition Force Generation Conference taking place in the next four weeks, where these requirements will be explored in detail.”

“As part of that discussion, we agreed to review regularly the coalition's campaign plan and the progress in its implementation,” the statement said. “To that end, ministers agreed to meet again before the end of the year.”

Military Campaign Alone is ‘Insufficient’

The ministers acknowledged that while the military campaign is an essential part of the overall effort to defeat and destroy ISIL, it alone is insufficient to ensure lasting success. The defense leaders said they are committed to ensuring that the military actions of the coalition are consistent with non-military lines of effort in order to set the conditions for sustainable political stability in the region, the statement noted.

“We thank all of our partners who are helping us advance the military campaign against [ISIL] and its economic and industrial infrastructure,” the statement said. “We recognize in particular the heroism, dedication, and steadfastness of all Iraqi security forces, including the peshmerga and Sunni tribal forces, and moderate Syrian opposition forces who are fighting [ISIL]. We also thank the men and women deployed with coalition forces who are playing their part to degrade and defeat [ISIL]. We encourage others to contribute and join us in this noble effort.”