WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2017 —
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met with officials at the National Space Defense Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, yesterday.
The secretary told reporters traveling with him that he wants to have a better understanding of how the United States works with Canada in defense of North America.
“I think the best way to look at it, is we don't look at war as being space war or cyber war. War is war,” he said. “And any kind of conflict in the future could well include cyber or space assets.”
Specifically, Mattis said he wants to understand the various systems used and the role they play in the decision-making process.
The main threat right now to the homeland is North Korea and the threats Kim Jong Un poses with his newly developed nuclear capability and the progress the nation is making in developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, the secretary said.
Mattis stressed the United States and its allies must concentrate on defense. “I believe that we have to have good strong defenses with our allies in order to buy time for the diplomats to resolve this situation,” he said.
The United States must work with allies so North Korea understands there is no military option, the secretary said. That will allow diplomats to solve the issue, he said.
“There may be opportunity for talks. If they stop their shooting missiles, stop developing nukes, stop building more nukes, we can talk,” Mattis said.
The secretary also discussed the situation in Afghanistan. The United States, NATO and partner nations have signed on to support Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s four-year plan. Mattis said there are over 100 specific indicators that allies will watch as the plan moves forward.
“Each of those will be measured and we will meet routinely to see how we're making progress on them,” he said. “Remember, the political goal here of the military campaign is reconciliation. The campaign itself, and what we're looking at, will be measures along that path.”
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
Mattis wants to ensure people do not get the idea that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is already defeated. While the “State” part of the group’s title is almost gone, he thinks “anyone who thinks they're down is premature.”
There are small enclaves of ISIS still in the Euphrates River Valley, he said. There is a deconfliction zone that has been worked out. “We're trying to expand those in other areas, the idea being to try to get the fighting stopped,” Mattis said.
In Syria, removal of improvised explosive devices is a high priority, and this will take time as Syrians must train to do this, the secretary said.
“You don't want amateurs doing it,” he said.
Helping people recover, helping refugees come back, ensuring there is clean water and sewage disposal -- all these are things that must be accomplished, Mattis said.
United Nations Plan
All this feeds into a U.N. mandated plan, he said.
“The next steps will have to do with how do you set up a political reconciliation,” Mattis said. “That plan would involve an election of some kind, under international observers. We would be in a position then to only come down when that plan has traction, if there's something going forward, rather than walking out and then looking over our shoulders at all hell breaking loose again. We've got to make certain we turn this over in a responsible way.”
He added, “The diplomats are ready to work on it. The United Nations is ready to work on it. I don't see this taking a long time. At that point, we would see a way forward for Syria.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)