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.
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.
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."
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
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)