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Media Gaggle

April 16, 2016
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER:  Okay, well you'll be happy to learn I don't need the podium.  I'm not going to open a notebook and -- I just said pretty much what I wanted to say to those folks, which is why they're here, why the counter-ISIL mission is so important, and their other missions in the region, and how proud we are of what they're doing.  

I should note that in addition to our hosts here, there were some other coalition members who came through the line there, so you had a lot of good friends out here also.

But anyway, let's just go right to your questions.

STAFF:  Courtney, you're the new arrival.

SEC. CARTER:  Hi, Courtney.

Q:  Hi, Secretary.

You mentioned (inaudible) that the U.S. wants to do more.  Can you give us some specifics what they're talking about?  Is it more of the same?  Is it (inaudible)?  What is that -- are we talking more (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER:  Across the whole spectrum.  You know we're looking to do more, but it ranges from in the air to on the ground.  All consistent with our overall strategic approach, which is to enable local forces ultimately to hold and sustain the defeat of ISIL, after ISIL is defeated, but to enable them to do so and accelerate that process so we continue to look for and identify ways of accelerating that, and as we find those we will do them.  Obviously in Iraq we do that with the permission of the Iraqi government.

But we -- you should expect us to -- to see us doing more, to be consistent with the same approach, but it will be across all the domains, right up to cyber, which I mentioned earlier.

Now over the next few days I'll have an opportunity to talk to our commanders, and also to some in the region here, and obviously look for more good opportunities to accelerate the defeat of ISIL here in Syria and Iraq, which is absolutely necessary.

Q:  When you say "on the ground," do you mean more U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq?

SEC. CARTER:  Yes, I mean, I think some of these have that aspect to it, but I just want to emphasize there's a lot more that goes with this, and our -- and our presence on the ground is -- and will continue to be to enable, not to substitute, for local forces.

STAFF:  Lita. 

Q:  Mr. Secretary...

SEC. CARTER:  But I mean, don't forget, as far as I'm concerned these people here are in the fight too.  I mean, I know when you talk about on the ground you're thinking of Iraq and Syria.  I just want to remind you here at al Dhafra these people are pretty busy, and some of them are in risky situations every single day.

Q:  You talked a lot to the troops about the accelerants and wanting to put an end to ISIL.  How soon do you see any further decision on who (inaudible) the White House of some of these options and accelerants that you've talked about?

SEC. CARTER:  We've gotten approval from the White House every time the chairman and I have gone to ask for something that we've needed to accelerate, going way back to last year, and so that isn't really the issue for us.  The issue for us is identifying yet more ways to accelerate the campaign.

Q:  As far as the ones you keep mentioning, the...

SEC. CARTER:  We haven't had any problem getting anything approved by the president -- I mean, anything that's made sense, but we don't propose anything that doesn't make sense, and that's been pretty much across all of those domains that I've mentioned to you.

This is a campaign, which you know, is novel in the sense of the way that ISIL operates and so forth, so we're doing a lot of innovation.

And then of course you wouldn't have thought of a war in the past that we would have fought in cyberspace, as well as in the air, so it's got a lot of novel dimensions to it, and I expect it more -- I expect more, and that's why I'm encouraging General Votel and General McFarland, and all of our other commanders here, and that's what I said to these kids out here, that we're looking for more approaches to accelerate the defeat.

STAFF:  Tara?

Q:  For the airmen at this base – (inaudible).  --does that mean you want sorties, or airstrikes or surveillance?  What can we expect?

SEC. CARTER:  It could be more sorties.  It can be a shift in the nature of their campaign.  I mean, what they've seen here and mentioned to me in the course of the last year is, as we've learned more and are more on top of the enemy, you can do more dynamic targeting, whereas the ratio of deliberate to dynamic was (inaudible). 

But on the -- but we're also finding new deliberate targets as well.  You remember the banks and that kind of stuff as well.

I talked to several people here about important changes they're making to these platforms and their command and control, and that's important.  That's in the data systems.  It's in the command and control systems.  It's in ways to make them -- so that they can operate more easily with coalition air forces, and so it's constantly evolving.   

You see the family of aircraft here has grown over time, and I think it's fair to say -- I don't know that this is exactly right, but that every major airframe in the American armament of the Air Force is on this base.  I'll bet that's true, and it’s very few exceptions if there aren’t. 

STAFF:  Laurent, you had a question?

Q:  I've heard you saying that you were paving the way, that you would be paving the way this week for the next GCC summit.

SEC. CARTER:  Right.

Q:  What are you -- what do you intend to discuss with the GCC leaders (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER:  A couple of things.  I'd put them in sort of three categories, as I was doing on the plane there.  The first is the two “I”'s, as I called them -- the counter-ISIL campaign, and the concern by everyone in the region, which we share, about the possibility of Iranian aggression and malign influence, and the need to stand with them, and the other is just generally the capabilities of our allies and partners out here, and particularly our Gulf partners.  

And the president promised that last year at Camp David that we work real hard this year, and we have been, to look at ways -- to identity ways, and advance ways, that we can work better together.  I mentioned some of them today on the -- they range from cyber to integrated air and missile defense, to ground forces, special operations forces, the kinds of capabilities that they need in order to make the full contribution that they can make to whatever happens here.

And I also note that of course we'll be in the -- in connection with the counter-ISIL thing, continuing to discuss with our Gulf partners, the additional contributions they are making -- military, economic and political.

I'm sorry.  I shouldn't call on -- put Peter out of a job.

STAFF:  It's your press conference, sir.

SEC. CARTER:  Could've fooled me.

Q:  On the economic front can you outline a little bit more what you'll be asking (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER:  Yes, in general terms, and I don't want to get ahead of a conversation the president is going to have with other heads of state.  But in general, it is in recognition of the fact that for the defeat of ISIL to stick in Iraq and Syria, these badly broken places, destroyed, by ISIL, pillaged by ISIL, mistreated by ISIL, are going to need to be rebuilt.  And also in recognition of the fact that our oil prices are down, and that has a serious impact in Iraq, which depends so heavily upon oil to support all of its regions, and therefore to support the overall multi-sectarian state, which is what we support, and what Prime Minister Abadi wants.

So you know, Iraqis have lots of political debates, lots of things.  These go back and -- a long time.  But Iraqis want to get ISIL off their territory, and after they do that, they want to get back to some sort of normal life, and that's going to take some economic and political help, as well as military help, and so even as we're looking to make contributions in all three of those areas, so also can the Gulf partners, and we'll want to talk to them about that.

STAFF:  So we have time for one more.

Tara?

Q:  With additional assistance, military assistance, to Iraq's (inaudible) depend upon any sort of political milestones that the Iraqi government would have to make, or (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, we're not going to change in any way what we're offering to contribute to the fight, and what we're willing to contribute to the fight.  And as I said, I mean, there are a lot of debates in Iraqis politics that I've got to leave Iraqi politics to the Iraqis.

But it's a very popular idea that they should rid their country of this evil group, and so I'm confident we'll be able to continue to work with them.

I do want to emphasize that, you know, we're very careful, as is appropriate.  Everything we do is with the permission of the Iraqi government.  That's the way we operate there.  That's the way we'll continue to operate there.

But we're going to continue to accelerate what we can do for them, and we're not going to change that.

STAFF:  Thanks, everybody.

SEC. CARTER:  All right, thanks, everybody.