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Joint Press Conference with Secretary Mattis and Minister Frederiksen in Copenhagen, Denmark

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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis; Danish Minister of Defence Claus Hjort Frederiksen
May 9, 2017
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MINISTER OF DEFENSE CLAUS HJORT FREDERIKSEN:  Welcome, Secretary Mattis.  You are the first secretary of defense to visit Denmark in -- in nearly a decade, and that gives me great pleasure to welcome you here in Copenhagen.  We are thankful for your leadership.  

Today's meetings have truly confirmed the very special bond there is between our two countries, between the U.S. and Denmark.  U.S. stood bulwark against the new dark age of Germany during the Second World War.  

And U.S. won the Cold War from a position of strength, never wavering in the fight for freedom.  And we will always remember -- remember that and be grateful for that.  We stood by the U.S. in the aftermath of the 9/11 when NATO's Article 5 was invoked for the first time. 

And the -- the fight against radical Islamic terrorism is as important to us as it is to you.  We are still in Afghanistan as I speak.  We are standing shoulder to shoulder in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.  

Today, the secretary and I chaired a meeting within the coalition against ISIS.  It was very successful meeting which confirmed that we are on the right path.  We will eventually defeat ISIS.  But we must almost be patient.  It'll take time.  

And therefore, it is important to keep our resolve and continue to provide the needed military contributions.  The fight against ISIS is one of the Danish government’s highest foreign policy priorities.  Today, we have had -- been discussing our bilateral cooperation.  

We will -- we have agreed that we will deepen our fruitful cooperation even further, including care for our veterans, challenging new threats from Russia, and working together on the Arctic dimension.  

Both of our countries are concerned about the rising cyber threats, and we are determined to strengthen the cooperation in conquering these threats.

We also discussed the upcoming NATO summit and burden sharing.  And we agreed that we, in Europe, must do more.  The world has become more unpredictable, and it is in our own interest to lift our fair share.

This includes our own Baltic Sea region.  We are both engaged in reassuring Baltic countries and Poland, and provide for an effective deterrence.  Therefore, the Danish government is ready to substantially increase our defense budget.

Jim, I pass the floor to you.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS:  Well, that was a good introduction.  Thank you, Minister Frederiksen for the warm welcome.  And good afternoon to all of you, ladies and gentlemen.

It's a real privilege to be here in Copenhagen and to pay the respects of the American people to the Danish people.  And alongside Minister Frederiksen, as he mentioned, we co-hosted a meeting of the coalition to defeat ISIS.

And our meeting was timed, ladies and gentlemen, to take stock of where we're at right now of the accelerated campaign against this maligned threat.  It's a threat to all of civilization.

We examined the enemy situation and discussed our next steps to make certain we're all on the same sheet of music.  And we're going to further accelerate this fight and to free the people currently suffering from Daesh's crushing occupation and our enemy's terror threat to Europe and -- and beyond.

ISIS has lost well over half its territory in Iraq and in Syria.  In Afghanistan, the enemy has lost about two-thirds of its strength.

And this past weekend, President Ghani announced the death of the Emir of ISIS- Khorasan.  This is the ISIS group in Nangarhar and up there in eastern Afghanistan.  In our anti-ISIS campaign, we are dealing that group one more significant blow with the loss of their leader.

This fight will go on as the minister said.  We continue to integrate our military and our non-military efforts.

You have to remember that the battlefield that we are fighting on is also a humanitarian field where innocent people live right now, sometimes forced to stay on the battlefield by ISIS.  We're doing everything possible -- everything humanly possible to limit the suffering and any casualties among those innocent people.

We are committed to working together, all of us.  And that was reinforced today in our meeting with many partners to defeat Daesh wherever it attempts to establish its roots.

In addition to the Defeat ISIS ministerial, we did hold a substantive, I thought, bilateral meeting together.  Denmark has always been a stalwart ally and friend of the United States.  And the close defense relationship between our two countries reflects the enduring strength of NATO's trans-Atlantic bond, having stood by each other in good times and bad.

And I would add that the American people are truly heartened by your government's commitment to share the cost of the common defense through a substantial increase in defense spending.  The times have changed.  2014 was an eye-opener for all of us, Minister, and we have to change with the times.

We also recognize that Denmark occupies a rather unique role as a member of NATO, but also as a member of the European Union and as a member of the Arctic Council.  And in our NATO affiliation, I affirm that the U.S. commitment to Article 5 is iron clad.  We stand together, minister, visible and indivisible in the face of any threats to international law or to a peaceful international order.

But thank you again for having me, minister, it's a pleasure to be here.  Thank you.  

MIN. FREDERIKSEN:  Thank you very much.  Yes.  We will take some questions.  

Q:  Secretary Mattis, you -- (inaudible) -- in the fight against ISIS – (inaudible), but you agreed upon more long term solution or strategy when the fighting ends.  

SEC. MATTIS:  The only reason we're fighting right now is to free the people and throw the threat off balance.  Once we get that threat subdued, then the real work begins, as some people put it, to actually exploit the enemy being banished.  And how do we do that?  Bottom line is we've got to restore government services, and that means we all have to work together.  Daesh has done horrible damage.  

They leave numerous mines in their wake when they pull out, and you've got to actually help return to normalcy, otherwise you simply breed the next problem.  So we're 100 percent aligned with where your thinking is.  I'll tell you that occupies an awful lot of our attention.  Six weeks ago in Washington D.C., the U.S. secretary of state hosted 68 countries that are committed to looking to the day after.  

Q:  Mr. Secretary, you had some meetings with a number of people today, including the Turkish government representative was here.  The Turks have expressed a great deal of concern about the prospects of the U.S. working with the Kurds in Turkey.  As you get closer to the Raqqa fight, what were your discussions today with the Turks and how close is the U.S. to determining whether or not there will be arms for the Syrian Kurds?   

SEC. MATTIS:  Yes, they -- we had very open discussion with the Turks.  It's a NATO ally, and NATO allies stick together.  That's not to say, we all walk into the room with exactly the same appreciation of the problem or the path forward.  We work that out through extensive dialogue.  We've been conducting military and diplomatic dialogue with the Turks, and it was a very, very useful discussion today.  

We're getting -- as you know -- into the position where we will have Raqqa surrounded.  The idea is, ladies and gentlemen, that the foreign fighters not be allowed to escape and return to constitute a threat against free and innocent people elsewhere, whether it be in the Arabian Gulf, North Africa, and certainly Europe.  By taking, for example, Manbij away from the enemy, that was the spoke of the hub and spoke of their terrorist effort against Europe, and that's how they conducted the attacks against Brussels and Paris.  So our intent is to work with the Turks, with -- alongside one another to take Raqqa down and we're going to sort it out and we'll figure out how we're going to do it, but we're all committed to it and that's what came out of today's discussion.  

Q:  On the arming of the Kurds.

STAFF:  Go ahead, please.

Q:  Yes, Mr. Secretary.  You have earlier...

SEC. MATTIS:  You need to ask this man some of the questions. (Laughter.)

Please, go ahead.  

Q:  You had earlier mentioned -- you repeated the American demand that every member state of NATO should pay a fair share.  Now, your Danish colleague, Mr. Frederiksen, tells us this would give a substantial raise to the Danish defense budget.  Is that enough for you, and would you still demand that we would use 2 percent of our GDP on our military spendings?  

SEC. MATTIS:  I have not heard your government put a limit in terms of the growth.  I think we have to adjust to the times and your government has shown the responsibility to recognize 2014 changed things and they're doing something about it.  NATO has got to remain visible and indivisible in the face of this threat.  It's a threat from the east.  It's a threat from terrorism.  It's a threat from cyber.  And by staying united, we buy time for the diplomats to solve these issues.  

But we -- we must stay united.  And right now, the growth in the budget is exactly what we are looking for.  It's the right trajectory.  And we're going to stand together here.

So, we're -- we're on a very -- in a very good place on this.

Q:  Thank you, minister.

I was wondering if you could tell me if Secretary Mattis or NATO have asked you directly for any additional Danish troop contributions for Afghanistan.  

And Secretary Mattis, I realize that precise numbers are still perhaps pre-decisional, but in the event of a significant troop increase in Afghanistan, how would things turn out differently this time?  And, you know, more than 15 years on, what gives you confidence that you'd be able to break the stalemate?  

And also just a follow-up from Lita’s question, when you were talking about working alongside the Turks, do you envision the Turks actually going into -- into Raqqa themselves?

So -- (inaudible).

SEC. MATTIS:  First of all, in Afghanistan, we're up against a determined enemy.  As I said, ISIS has been thrown back there.  Al-Qaida has been unable to mount attacks out of Afghanistan.  The government under President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah are committed to working in a responsive way with their citizens, and therein lies the path forward.

When a government wins the affection, the respect and the support of their people, then no enemy can stand against them.

And as far as Raqqa, again, we will continue the campaign.  There is plenty of work to do for all of us there.  And the actual tactical activities on the ground, I don't want to go into details right now.  We owe a degree of confidentiality about our -- our plans.

But we will work it out to our NATO allies and on our best way forward.  War sometimes doesn't give you all good options.  That's the nature of war.  It's not a good situation.  

Q:  And then a question -- (inaudible).

MIN. FREDERIKSEN:  And we will, of course, we have a favorable attitude to increase our troops in Afghanistan if necessary.  But we haven't reached the conclusion yet.  But I can generally say that we are positively thinking of adding our presence in Afghanistan.

MIN. FREDERIKSEN:  Mr. Mattis has a very heavy program.  He's going to visit the prime minister right now, and then fly to Lithuania to visit the German troops there and the Lithuanian president.  

Thank you very much.

SEC. MATTIS:  Thank you very much.