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Remarks by Secretary Carter at a Troop Event in Baghdad, Iraq

Dec. 16, 2015
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

STAFF: ... Secretary of Defense. And Mr. Carter, sir, and Mr. Secretary, we're very honored to have you here, today. We've got some troopers who are doing the Lord's work here in Iraq, enabling the fight against Daesh, or ISIL.

And they are very happy to have the opportunity to hear a few words from you. And I just want all of you to know that we're very lucky to have Secretary Carter back in Washington, D.C. If you're ever wondering who has got your back while you're facing the enemy, it's the secretary of defense.

Every day, he is doing his own form of battle to help us do our form of battle. So, sir, without any further ado, it's our great honor and privilege.



Thanks very much, General MacFarland and let me, first of all, just on the note that the general just said to you -- just to change the subject -- (inaudible) -- the thing I want to say to you, is I am in my job to help you do your job.

It's not the other way around. So, I'm here to find out from General MacFarland here, who –I’ve known a long time, and I have -- (inaudible). I was lucky when I -- (inaudible) -- as we -- (inaudible) -- General MacFarland -- (inaudible) -- threat.

I have no doubt that that's the -- (inaudible). It's holiday season, that's one reason to be here -- (inaudible) -- used to be here, because holiday season was coming up, and I wanted my family to be able to tell you how much we appreciate the fact that you're away from your family protecting our country, defeating an enemy that has to be defeated. And that's going to leave a better world for everyone, for your children.

That's the noblest thing you can do with your life, and that's what you're doing, as members of our spectacular military. The thing was, to your family --

STAFF: Here's -- that mic, sir. Take this one .

SEC. CARTER: Okay. Can you hear me now? You know what, can you hear me if I just talk? You can ask me --

STAFF: Yeah.

SEC. CARTER: Okay, woohoo. Now, you can really hear me.

STAFF: (inaudible).

SEC. CARTER: Yeah. I hope you got the first part. But at any rate, the point is we're here to say thank you, and we'd like to say thank you to your family, to say happy holidays. To say bless you for what you're doing -- and I say that very much from my family in our hearts.

But I really do think I speak for everyone in America. People know -- I mean, you know that not everybody is an expert in what you do, not everybody will have served. But over all, I mean, I think they get this has to be done, this fight has to be fought. It's for civilization against evil. It's for America against its enemies.

You guys are doing it. And that's how you're spending your Christmas, so that everybody else gets to spend their Christmas waking up in the morning, opening their presents. You know, playing with their kids under the Christmas tree, having a nice dinner.

They get to do that because they have security. Just think about it, if we didn't have security, none of that stuff would matter to you, you'd just be worried about your security all the time.

So, you provide the conditions under which people get to live their lives and dream their dreams, and raise their children.

And maybe every day, they're not thinking of that. But if that ever went away, they would think about it all the time. So, it is the noblest -- I'm sure it's not the most fun thing you could be doing on your holiday, but it's the noblest thing you could be doing.

That's the first thing I wanted to say to you.

The second thing I wanted to say to you is that because of you, we are going to win this campaign against Daesh -- I don't have any doubt about it. -- (inaudible) -- everybody here has been calling it Daesh, I'm used to calling it ISIL.

But whatever you call it, here in Iraq and also in Syria, we have to defeat it, we're going to defeat it, and we're looking for ways to up our game and hasten that demise of ISIL, here in Iraq, also in Syria.

And I should say, by the way, from the nature of our world today, and -- I call it sort of social media terrorism, that even though the parent tumor of ISIL is here in Iraq and Syria, it's like a cancer. It metastasizes around the world.

So, we're combating everywhere else, including at home. And we'll do that, and we have do that, but we have to take out the parent tumor, which is here in Iraq and Syria.

Here in Iraq, we do that by importantly supporting the Iraqi Security Forces. We have to build them, we have to help them be successful, we have to do more than we've been doing, as circumstances arise, and of course, subject to Iraqi approval.

But to help that -- I expect us to be doing more. And I told General MacFarland, we're looking for him to bring us ideas for how we can hasten this.

Now, obviously, a lot of it hinges on the performance of the Iraqis, and we need to help strengthen. But we need to have things that no other contributor can possibly bring.

And there are others around the world, other members of the coalition who can bring things to the fight -- and I'm talking to them about supporting the fight, too, because this has to be what it needs to be, which is a fight of the civilized world against this form of evil.

And since it is good versus evil, and it's the powerful, after all, in the end of day, it's us, the powerful and the many against the few.

We will win. But we need to win quickly, and that in turn, is on you, your ingenuity. And I'm here to help you, and there will be others joining the fight as well, both here in Iraq, and here in Syria.

So, happy holidays to you all. I hope you will, next time you're talking to your family, tell them, number one, that you were picked to do your duty on this holiday, even though you can't be with them.

Number two, the importance of what you're doing, and the determination that we have to destroy this enemy as soon as possible. Your country is 100 percent behind you.

So, happy holidays. I think, now, we're going to take some time -- can we do that? Where people can ask a question? Anybody have a -- Peter, is that okay?

A couple of -- it doesn't even have to be a question, it can be an observation, something that you know that you don't think I know or a suggestion you have, anything at all.

Q: I mean, I can talk about this, sir.


Q: We had already seen sort of a -- we have -- we have ISIL in Iraq, we have ISIL in Syria, and now that you're here supporting the troops, you're having ISIL or ISIS influencing or standing up in Afghanistan.

With that said, you see this continuing to be more of a SOF fight for the leaders, or –do you see a more conventional -- (inaudible).

SEC. CARTER: Well, in every case, whether Afghanistan -- I don't know that everybody can hear, but the point was ISIL in Iraq and Afghanistan, he hears it's spreading to Afghanistan, which is true both in the sense that there are people in Afghanistan who might have been in a different organization like the Taliban in the past who get all jazzed up by this ISIL thing, so they decided to call themselves ISIL.

And then there are also, it appears to be some deliberate attempt by ISIL here to create a new sect in Afghanistan. Both of those things are going on. Either way, it also has to be fought in Afghanistan.

The question was is this is going to be very much a special forces type of war. And I think the answer to that is basically yes, that there's some providers of -- let me say basically, you have this -- these are wars that are taking place in the territory of other societies, right? So at the end of the day, after the enemy is defeated, they have to run their own country. And in that sense, the force that ultimately defeats the enemy has to be capable and motivated local forces.

We can enable them, we can help create them, but in the end, we can't substitute for them because we can't govern those places. So that's our basic strategic approach, and that's basically saying it's essentially an enabling strategy.

SOF does that, but, you know, conventional forces do that too, because they -- there might be opportunities for them and there are certainly opportunities for them in training, equipping, there's opportunity for our logisticians, opportunities for our acquisition people, huge opportunities for our air forces, right, and our naval forces. (Inaudible) -- you see that all the time -- (inaudible) -- right, every day. Big.

So it really is the whole joint force involved in it, even though the strategic approach is the one I described, of enabling capable and motivated forces to get control over their societies and stamp out extremism in their societies. But it will be a whole of our force.

By the way, while I'm rattling on, I should say it's actually a whole-of-government too, because there's a political side to this, right, all these societies. And really importantly for us, there's a law enforcement, homeland security, intelligence, you know, my colleagues around the U.S. government matter in this, as well as everyone. That's a whole government approach. Yes?

Q: (off-mic)

SEC. CARTER: The question was what will be the role of the U.S. military in Iraq after the defeat of Daesh? I mean, I would expect that we'll continue to have a relationship, a friendly relationship, with the government of Iraq like we have now. And we have friends all over the world, right?

We have allies all over the world and I expect that we will continue to have a strong defense for lots of other reasons in Iraq, just like we have around the world, from Japan and Australia to our NATO allies to countries in our hemisphere. And so I expect Iraq to continue to be a security friend of the United States.

I hope there isn't a war going on in their territory after Daesh is -- you know, nobody else comes along. But that's -- they can be a security partner for us, and that's a –good thing. That's an asset for our security in the end.

And I there's a lesson in there, I think, that's important for all you to know that is a tribute to you, which is this. If you look around the world and you say who has friends and allies, it's America. You know, we have almost all the friends and allies, and most of our antagonists -- I'm not -- I'm not talking about ISIL but I'm talking about countries that we have difficulty with don't have any friends.

Well, why is that? Two reasons. First is you. People like working with Americans, they like working with you. You treat them decently and you're effective. You're tough, you're effective, you're successful. And the second thing is I think that what we stand for, what America stands for, the principles we stand for, are attractive to people. But we're an easy side to be on, and that's why we have so many allies and friends, and I expect that Iraq can be that in the future.

Another place in the world where the United States has friends and where if troubles arise in this part of the world, we can count on them and to get themselves back on their feet and meet this enemy as a capable organization and a capable military friend. One more. Yes sir?

Q: Sir, -- (inaudible). I'm glad you mentioned our allies –in a recent article, you were quoted saying that the United States has no better friend or ally than Britain, and the U.S. and UK must work together in order to create a new playbook in regards to defense from terrorists, especially regarding cyber type of warfare.

How do you think that will affect -- (inaudible) -- Army and what change can we see in terms of -- (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER: That's a great question, a huge question. And so everybody -- for those of you who didn't hear it, it was rightly quoting me saying that we have no better friend -- that's the phrase we use with respect to the United Kingdom, our special relationship -- than the UK. And I also named some things that we also need to do for our security, in addition to what you're doing here. You mentioned cyber --

Q: Yes, sir.

SEC. CARTER: -- and other domains. Europe deterrence, so I'll say something about that. That's not your mission right here, but let's remember we are a very powerful country with very great global responsibilities. So even as we accomplish this mission here, we continue to keep the peace elsewhere.

So -- and you mentioned Europe. Well, you know, Europe, just in case you haven't noticed, has had a problem with Russia, right? Russia in Ukraine. That's caused us and the Europeans, including the United Kingdom, to recognize that we need to strengthen the NATO alliance. And I mentioned the new playbook because as you think about NATO, a lot of people think back to the Cold War, that isn't the way conflict will break out in Europe today.

We need to think about hybrid warfare, cyber warfare and these new forms of warfare that weren't around back in the Cold War days but that do characterize modern conflict and make sure that we can dominate those new domains just like we dominated the domains in the Cold War.

And I could keep going around the world. I mean, we have our issues in other parts of the world as well. Just to take NATO and Russia issues, NATO, many of the NATO countries are involved in the coalition, so they're fighting Daesh, they have a problem with ISIL in their own countries, as Paris illustrated. But they're also worried about the security future of Russia. What do they do? Once again, they turn to America because of our amazing capability represented by you, and also what we stand for.

And on that note, let me once again thank y'all. Tell your families how immensely proud you -- and Stephanie.

STAFF: (off-mic)

SEC. CARTER: We are so proud to be a part of you and to be part of this wonderful family that protects our country and leaves a better future for everyone. I'm sorry you can't be with your families, but I know that we -- all the rest of us will be thinking of you with thanks on Christmas Day. Thank you.

Oh, now I want to do something. Now, if everyone would come up one-by-one, I get a little chance to look you in the eye, give you this still rare Ash Carter coin --


-- mark it on eBay, and thank you myself. We'll get a picture of you and thank you for -- come on up.