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Press Secretary: Carter ‘Gratified’ Coalition Will Do More in Counter-ISIL Fight

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2016 — Defense Secretary Ash Carter was gratified that so many nations accepted his challenge and vowed to step up contributions to accelerate defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant at last week’s first meeting of defense ministers from the counter-ISIL coalition, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters this morning.

During a Pentagon news conference, Cook called the coalition nations’ support at the meeting in Brussels “overwhelming” and emphasized that the added resources will help to accelerate the campaign.

Saudi Capabilities

We're already seeing some of those commitments put into action,” Cook said. “I can confirm the Saudis renewed their participation in airstrikes in the last few days.”

The specifics of the capabilities Saudi Arabia can bring to the accelerated counter-ISIL campaign will be discussed with coalition partners, he said.

Cook said Carter firmly believes the Saudis and other nations could, for example, contribute by sending in special operations forces to do similar tasks as U.S. special operators, such as monitoring ground operations in Syria and helping to enable local forces.

Russia’s Campaign Role

Citing the importance of Russian cooperation in the counter-ISIL campaign, Cook urged Russia to consider the best policy path and move away from supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“They have said their fight is with ISIL,” he said. “We'd like to see them change course, direction and refocus their efforts.”

Enduring NATO Commitment Solidified

Carter also met with NATO’s defense ministers last week. The partners reaffirmed their enduring commitment to the alliance and the U.S. transition from reassurance to deterrence, Cook told reporters.

Support for the U.S. decision to invest $3.4 billion in the European Reassurance Initiative, which quadrupled spending, was well received by NATO allies, Cook said. “It is a tangible example of the new playbook the secretary has been talking about since last June,” he added.

 (Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)