Magazine article U.S. Department of Defense Speeches

Statement on Counter-ISIL Operations and U.S. Military Strategy in the Middle East before the Senate Armed Services Committee

Magazine article U.S. Department of Defense Speeches

Statement on Counter-ISIL Operations and U.S. Military Strategy in the Middle East before the Senate Armed Services Committee

Article excerpt

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Washington, D.C., April 28, 2016

Chairman McCain, Ranking Member Reed, thank you--thank you for those statements, and for this hearing, and for the range, both geographic and in terms of tactical, operational, and strategic, that you're asking us to speak to. Thanks always to the Committee for being here and for your interest in this. And above all, Chairman, thank you for thanking the troops--means a lot--you have many opportunities to carry that to them directly, but I'll try to do that too, when I do. Appreciate that.

I will briefly in my opening statement address all of the aspects of the subjects you raised in your two statements--obviously our campaign to defeat ISIL, but more broadly, our military strategy in the Middle East. I appreciate that this is my seventh appearance before this committee; the fifth one focused on the Middle East since I became Secretary of Defense. And the timing is, as Senator Reed noted, fortuitous, in this sense: I just returned from a two-week trip to the Asia-Pacific and also the Middle East--both regions critical to U.S. and global security, and where our men and women in uniform are deeply engaged, as they are all over the world. It's emblematic of why, with all the challenges going on today--particularly the five challenges I discussed with you last month in my budget testimony, namely Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and terrorism, especially ISIL--DoD can't choose between one or the other, or between acting in the present and investing in the future. We have to do them all.

While there's much I could say about the Asia-Pacific, I'm obviously going to focus my comments here today on the Middle East. There, our actions and our strong military posture continue to be guided by our North Star of what's in America's national interests. These are several things; they include dealing ISIL a lasting defeat.

That was the principal purpose of my visit to Iraq last week, where I conferred with our commanders and visited with our troops; met with Prime Minister Abadi and Defense Minister Ubaidi; spoke to Kurdistan Regional Government President Barzani; and announced a number of key next steps that President Obama has directed to further accelerate the defeat of ISIL--more on that in a moment.

When I appeared before this committee to discuss our counter-ISIL campaign in early December, I outlined how we had embarked on a major acceleration of this campaign--an effort Chairman Dunford and I had recommended to the President in October. And it consisted of multiple steps.

First, there were a number of immediate accelerants. We deployed additional strike aircraft to Incirlik, supporting an expanded air campaign against new targets and new categories of targets illuminated by refined intelligence. We deployed an initial contingent of special operations forces to Syria. We expanded equipping of Syrian Arab forces engaged in the fight against ISIL. We began enabling capable, motivated local forces in southern Syria also, and enhancing Jordan's border control and defenses. We leveraged air power and advisors to help the Peshmerga take Sinjar, cutting the Iraqi side of the main line of communication between ISIL's power centers in Raqqa and Mosul. We introduced an expeditionary targeting force. We worked to improve our ability to target ISIL's leadership and presence beyond Iraq and Syria. And we started to expand the military campaign against ISIL to every domain, including cyber and space.

All these capabilities were marshaled against a clear coalition military campaign plan focusing operations on three objectives: one, destroying ISIL's parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, which is necessary--not sufficient, but necessary; second, combatting the metastases of the ISIL tumor worldwide wherever they appear, as has been noted by both the Chairman and Senator Reed; and three, our most important mission, which is to help protect the homeland. …

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