The US plans to increase the number of troops in Iraq as it seeks to “accelerate” its campaign to “crush” Islamic State in the region, the Pentagon chief said.
Ash Carter met with his French partner seeking ways to bring Arab states “in the game,” too.
Aside from his bilateral meeting with his counterpart and “good friend,” French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, the US Defense Secretary Carter sat down for the first with seven major members of the anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) coalition. The “face-to-face meeting” included Britain, Germany, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands, all trying to figure out in what ways they could boost their fight against Islamic militants.
“The object of today is to satisfy ourselves that the balance of the campaign is right…and that we can now capitalize on the setbacks Daesh has suffered in Iraq and move on to tighten the noose around the head of the snake in Syria in Raqqa,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told reporters.
The coalition’s major goal right now is to target and destroy IS headquarters in Iraq and Syria while also combating their supporters worldwide, “everywhere its metastasis have spread around the world,” the Pentagon stressed.
“We’re doing this by providing a plan, clear leadership and the power of a global coalition wielding a suite of capabilities [that include] airstrikes, special forces, cyber tools, intelligence, equipment, mobility and logistics, and training, advice and assistance,” Carter said.
The counter-IS campaign is a running theme of Carter’s trip to Paris and Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, using it as an “opportunity to talk to some of those same leaders about the same topics.”
Speaking to reporters while en route to Paris, Carter stressed that the military campaign is also about “protecting the American homeland.”
He also laid out some of the Pentagon’s plans regarding the coalition and its strategy.
Citing the recent success in taking the city of Ramadi back from the Islamic militants, Carter said he “expects” the number of additional US advisers in Iraq to increase, as well as “the variety of the training they’re giving.”
“So for example, as territory is retaken from IS, as moving up and ultimately including Mosul, there are going to need to be not just ground forces that can seize territory, but police forces that can keep security,” the Defense Secretary said.
Carter did not give an exact number, but said the number of US personnel is going “to increase greatly as the momentum of the effort increases.”
He stressed that the reinforcement would involve not only the US, but also its coalition partners. In this regard, Carter said that one of his goals is to bring Arab countries – “Arabs and Sunni Arabs” – into the military campaign, as they can be “an enormous contribution to this.”
“I want to hear from my counterparts over the next couple of days — how can we get them in the game. I have long said that Arabs and Sunni Arabs need to get in the game,” Carter said on Tuesday.
In February, defense ministers from 26 counter-ISIS coalition nations, plus Iraq, are going to meet in Brussels, all together for the first time, to continue discussions on how to “hasten” the defeat of jihadists.
“Every nation must come prepared to discuss further contributions to the fight,” Carter said, “and I will not hesitate to engage and challenge current and prospective members of the coalition as we go forward.”