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Remarks by Secretary Carter in a Media Availability, Baghdad, Iraq

April 18, 2016
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: All right, well, thanks for being here today. I had a very positive, very significant day in Iraq today where I finalized some of our new efforts to further accelerate the campaign to defeat ISIL.

I discussed them with Prime Minister Abadi and other leaders here. We're on the same page with the Iraqi government.

I also had the opportunity to speak to our commanders, including Lieutenant General MacFarland, and get their firsthand assessments of the plan that we have to conduct the campaign, complete the campaign and deal ISIL a lasting defeat here in Iraq and everywhere around the world.

It's a very good day.

With that, let me go to your questions.

STAFF: The first question, anyone?


Q: Sorry.


SEC. CARTER: I'm not...


SEC. CARTER: -- don't let me call on people.

STAFF: Go ahead, Lita.

SEC. CARTER: Hi, Lita.

Q: Hi.

Can you give us your assessment of what putting the troops with the battalions and the brigades will do?

How much additional risk do you think they will face and how much added help can that provide to the Iraqis?

SEC. CARTER: Well, I -- first of all, let me just remind everybody that we have troops at risk here in Iraq right now every day. And in the skies above, pilots that aren't even based here in Iraq, but where I was -- had been yesterday and the day before are at risk every single day.

And as secretary of defense, uppermost in my mind always is that we never put our servicemembers at risk unless doing so, we've done everything to protect them, but also a -- what they are doing is of great consequence.

And with respect to being able to advise and assist in headquarters at the brigade and battalion level, we're recommending that because of the very powerful effect that can have. It brings some of the experience but also all the knowledge of our enablers to that headquarters. And as -- and the good news is those headquarters are relocating and moving a -- among other places, northwards toward Mosul, which we want them to.

And we want to have our forces there with them so they can help them and they can bring the great weight of the ca -- coalition's enablers to this campaign.

Now, it's all consistent, these -- these -- these additions are consistent with our overall strategic approach, which is to enable the Iraqi security forces, not to try to substitute for them.

But this is more of the same and no question we'll -- will be well worth the additional effort.

Q: Are you certain they'll be protected enough -- (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER: We always take force protection very, very seriously.

Q: So they'll have -- (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER: Absolutely. That's part of the plan.


Q: I’ve been hearing a lot about these 200, the logistics of helping to bring the fight further than it’s ever been before -- (inaudible) -- (inaudible) – is that how you would describe what these 217 are going to be doing -- (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER: They're actually in a -- doing a number of tasks and -- and in addition to introducing some additional forces, the moves we're describing today will cause us to be reallocating some of the efforts of forces that are already here, including -- to get to your question -- to the vitally important business of logistics.

Now, I know that that may not sound like a lot to -- to most people, but it's particularly important now, as Iraqi forces relocate from where we have trained and equipped them northward, importantly, to Mosul, and they're moving around the provision has to be made for them to be supplied and for their equipment to be repaired and so forth as they go into action.

So we want more action by Iraqi forces toward victory here and more action will require more logistics, since that will be an important part of this gathering momentum and gathering effort to strengthen our enablers at the same time they're strengthening their efforts.

STAFF: Tara?

Q: And Mr. Secretary, do you have any idea of how many you're going to be relocating to -- (inaudible) – a training capacity -- (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER: I'm going to have to let General MacFarland answer that. But it's -- it's -- it's an important, um -- and this is a more general point. As the campaign plan progresses, the tasks that our forces are accomplishing here, always in support of the Iraqi security forces, will evolve at the same time the campaign does. So this is part of that evolution.

STAFF: Tara?

Q: Mr. Secretary, what will the Apaches be able to do to add to the fight? What's going to change the Iraqis' minds about being able to -- (inaudible) -– help them retake Mosul?

SEC. CARTER: Well they're, first of all, an -- a very significant addition to the fires capacity that already is brought to bear from the air, from artillery, from HIMARS, which I also a -- announced a new deployment of today. But very specifically, because of they -- their ability to respond so quickly and so dynamically to the evolving tactical situation, that's the general value of an attack helicopter in a situation like this.

And I think as General MacFarland explained earlier, we expect that to -- those circumstances where it can have a decisive effect at a particular time and place that there will be a lot of such opportunities as the envelopment of Mosul progresses.

That's what we discussed with Prime Minister Abadi. He understands this capability perfectly well, and he understood that it would be necessary for just these cases, and agreed with me that we would provide it and on its effectiveness.

STAFF: We've got time for two more.


(UNKNOWN): Does this mean the advisors will be closer to the front line?

SEC. CARTER: The -- the advisers that are in the brigade and battalion headquarters, those headquarters are moving with the forces so as the -- right now, they're with forces that are down south. As the forces move north, they'll move with them.

Q: So they will be closer, then, that's what you're saying?

SEC. CARTER: Well, the forces are moving and they're moving, as well. So they remain near their own forces. They'll get closer to Mosul. Um, but they're associated with the forces that are themselves moving.

Q: Moving closer to the fight, right?

SEC. CARTER: Well, the fight is -- is moving northward toward Mosul. That's where the culminating fight is going to be.

STAFF: We've got time for one more.

Q: So you are basically saying there are no Americans that are going to be close to the front lines -- (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER: This will put Americans closer to the action in the sense that they are able to advise the headquarters at -- that are themselves relocating and following the forces. In that sense, their whole purpose is to be able to help those forces respond in a more agile way and to bring our enablers to bear in a more agile way.

So that's one of the ways in which their closeness to the headquarters, as close as you can possibly be. They're in the headquarters. They will be in the headquarters at the brigade and battalion level -- will allow them to respond in a more agile way and provide the enabler support that we intend to provide in a more agile way.


STAFF: Sorry, we've got to go.

Thank you, everyone.

Appreciate it.

Q: Thank you.

STAFF: We've got to stay on schedule so we can get out of here.