Carter Visits Troops, Coalition Partners in Middle East

By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity


WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2015 — Defense Secretary Ash Carter is in the Middle East this week to visit troops far from home during the holiday season and to speak with coalition partners about upping the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

President Barack Obama, after a briefing yesterday with his National Security Council, said he directed Carter to visit the Middle East to work on securing more military contributions from coalition partners in the fight against ISIL.

As the trip began, Carter spoke with reporters on his military aircraft about the trip and about his visit with as many troops as possible who are serving far from home.

Holiday Troops Visits

The secretary said that he, his wife Stephanie, and his entire front-office team will “visit our service members who are in this holiday season, not at home with their families but instead are working to keep America safe. I want them and their families to know how much we appreciate it.”

At yesterday’s NSC meeting, Carter said Obama reiterated his charge to federal leaders in attendance to identify and carry out every conceivable way to accelerate ISIL’s defeat.

The conversation extended over all aspects of the counter-ISIL campaign, including military, homeland security, law enforcement, intelligence, treasury and diplomacy, the secretary added.

Upping the ISIL Fight

During his trip, Carter said he will pass the president’s message down the ranks, speaking with battlefield commanders and getting their thinking on accelerating the anti-ISIL campaign.

He explained that he, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F Dunford Jr. and military commanders will continue to devise new tactics for attacking ISIL, new strategic directions for the campaign and new ways to obtain coalition amplification of the campaign.

While in the Middle East, Carter said he will have a chance to speak with coalition partners. He said he has personally asked coalition leaders for more, even as he asks U.S. commanders for more and the president “is asking all of us … throughout the government to do more.”

Carter added, “This is a coalition campaign and, as strong as America is and as committed as America is to defeating ISIL, we receive important contributions from coalition partners. But we’re asking for more … there are lots of different kinds of contributions that coalition partners can make."

Kinds of Contributions

Contributing to the air campaign is one kind of contribution, the secretary said. Other kinds include augmenting the train, advise and assist mission and advising on efforts to control borders such as those in Turkey and Jordan.

“Basically … we're looking for contributions that draw on the distinctive strengths of individual countries, so they have a comparative advantage and can see the … important role they can play, and they can explain that to their publics and get support,” Carter explained.

Encouraging Resistance to ISIL

Some of the Gulf countries, for example, could make important contributions to encouraging and assisting Sunni communities to resist ISIL rule, the secretary said.

“Over this trip and in subsequent weeks and months, I'll be asking them each to make the strongest, most robust possible contributions they can and draw on their own comparative advantages,” he added.

“Since I wrote my letters to a number of coalition ministers of defense, there have been discussions within various coalition countries about this … even as there are discussions in our country about our own contributions,” he said.

Carter said it’s also important for those in nonmilitary agencies and organizations -- homeland security and law enforcement, for example -- to reach out to their international counterparts.

“We need more out of the coalition in those nonmilitary areas as well,” Carter said.

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)