Defense Secretary Ash Carter met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi yesterday in Baghdad and spoke with troops there about the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the ongoing military campaign to retake the city of Mosul.
On this week’s international trip Carter also is visiting Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, France and Belgium to meet with key partners in the campaign to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat, and to participate in the fifth NATO defense ministerial of his tenure.
During a press briefing after his meeting with Abadi, Carter congratulated him on the start of the Mosul operation and commended Masoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region since 2005, on his successful work with Iraqi forces.
Carter also reaffirmed to Abadi the vital importance of every country operating with full respect for Iraqi sovereignty.
‘That is the principle upon which the international coalition and everything that it does in this country is 100 percent committed to,” the secretary added.
Beyond the Mosul Campaign
As head of the U.S. Defense Department, Carter expressed regret for the losses that the Iraqis have taken in the counter-ISIL fight and for the most recent U.S. casualty in the region.
“We had the loss of an American service member here,” the secretary said, “This is a fight that we must fight but it comes with a price of heavy hearts for the families of the fallen.”
Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan, 34, of Anaheim, California, died Oct. 20 in northern Iraq of wounds sustained in an improvised explosive device blast. He was assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Three.
Beyond the Mosul campaign to reconstruction, stabilization and U.S. and coalition assistance, Carter said he and Abadi discussed the continuing need to fight terrorism even after Iraq has reestablished control over its major cities.
“We talked about our next steps … in the stabilization of Iraq and our continued willingness to lead a coalition in support of the consolidation of Iraqi government control over Iraqi territory,” the defense secretary added.
Addressing the Troops
Shortly after the meeting with Abadi, Carter spoke with about 50 service members, greeting them and asking them to send thanks to their families from DoD for their service and sacrifice.
“You are doing extremely important work here and you're here at an historic moment,” the secretary said, adding that ISIL must be defeated in Iraq and Syria to destroy the idea that an Islamic state could exist based on brutal ideology.
“We are at an important moment in the campaign because you, together with our Iraqi partners, led by Prime Minister Abadi and … a unified Iraq, a unified armed forces enabled by the massive might of the international coalition that you lead” has been executing the coalition military plan for ISIL’s defeat “with the excellence that the world knows is so characteristic of the U.S. military,” Carter told the troops.
“We know it's not going to be easy, but I'm encouraged by what I see so far. It's proceeding according to plan and we're on track,” the secretary added, also commending the Iraqi forces and the Kurdish peshmerga for their important contributions to the effort.
After the Mosul Victory
With confidence in the Mosul victory, Carter said, all must look to the future of Iraq.
“To make victory stick, you have to have, in the aftermath, decent governance and stabilization and reconstruction. I took the opportunity earlier today to talk to the United Nations and the [U.S. Agency for International Development] and the Iraqi government coordinators for that phase,” the secretary said.
“That’s not your job. It's not the Department of Defense's job,” he added, “but it's very important to make sure that that's ready to go so the defeat of ISIL in Mosul sticks.”
What’s true in Mosul is true everywhere in the country, Carter said.
“I'm confident that's possible. We've got to work on it. We have to win the peace after we win the battle,” he said.
“This couldn't happen without the support of the international coalition. That coalition couldn't exist without the United States. And that coalition couldn't be successful on the battlefield without the awesome prowess of the people in this room and in the U.S. military around the world,” the secretary said.