WASHINGTON, February 11, 2016 —
After meeting in Brussels today with defense ministers whose nations participate in the U.S.-led coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said his counterparts unanimously support the campaign plan’s objectives.
During the first-of-its-kind meeting, held at NATO headquarters, the coalition defense leaders discussed the new, accelerated counter-ISIL plan that President Barack Obama recently approved, stepping up the mission to hasten defeat of the terrorist organization.
“[I] am very pleased to report there was unanimous support for the campaign plan's objectives, as well as for the concept of operations,” Carter said. The objectives include destroying ISIL's parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, combating its worldwide spread, and protecting all homelands.
Carter told his fellow defense leaders that “two big arrows” point toward the first step to collapse ISIL’s control of the key cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, outlined the progress of the march toward Mosul and Raqqa in the coming weeks and months.
Counter-ISIL Plan Has ‘Broad Support’
“Broad support” from coalition leaders marked the historic meeting, said the secretary said, adding that all agreed the counter-ISIL fight must be accelerated, requiring every coalition member nation to step up its efforts to contribute more to the effort.
“The United States is showing the way forward through intensifying our counter-ISIL operations, and we stand ready … to do more,” and the nation is “absolutely determined” to lead the campaign against ISIL, Carter said.
The secretary said he’s grateful the United States is not in the fight alone. Nearly 60 percent of military coalition members have said they will increase their contributions, he said, and another third committed in the last few days to do more for the campaign once their governments approve.
“In sum, nearly 90 percent of the countries participating in the coalition's military campaign have stepped up to do more in the last months and days,” Carter said, adding that contributions include extending air operations to Syria, training police, stabilizing, assisting in recovery, and providing more trainers, critical logistic support and materiel to local partners on the ground.
Coalition Nations Stepping Up
“The coalition is clearly intensifying the counter-ISIL campaign,” the secretary said.
Thanks to the leadership of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Carter said, the defense ministers explored adding NATO as a coalition member. NATO would add experience in building partner capacity, training ground forces and providing stabilization support to the campaign, he noted.
Carter said numerous countries recently answered his call for more resources, including Australia, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada.
“The Dutch shared with the coalition just minutes ago that they are now prepared to carry out airstrikes in Syria, in addition to their ongoing air operations in Iraq,” he told reporters. “The Canadians agreed [Feb. 8] to triple their training effort in northern Iraq and double their intelligence efforts, among other critically important nonmilitary contributions that they're making in addition to their military contributions,” Carter said.
Pending their governments’ approval, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Denmark have pledged further efforts in the counter-ISIL fight since Carter arrived in Brussels this week, he added.
Saudi Arabia ‘Reinvigorating’ Efforts
Several coalition Gulf state partners said they are willing to intensify their efforts, Carter said, including Saudi Arabia’s defense minister, who said the kingdom is “reinvigorating” its commitment to the coalition air campaign and contributing in other critical ways on the ground. The secretary called this “very welcome news.”
“We also discussed working with the kingdom in their efforts in leading a collection of Islamic nations in the fight against violent extremism, whose efforts will be complementary to our own within the counter-ISIL coalition,” he added.
The secretary said he’s pleased so many nations have stepped up and answered the call for great military and nonmilitary contributions.
“But my challenge to coalition members to accelerate our military campaign will not end today any more than America's resolve to lead and make more contributions itself will end today,” Carter said. “It will continue.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)