PARIS — Following a first-ever meeting of the chief contributors to the counter-ISIS fight, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and his French counterpart in Paris endorsed the stepped-up military campaign against the Islamic State and called for more countries and capabilities to join the fight.
Carter said that to continue the momentum and determine what capabilities are needed, he has invited a larger group of defense ministers from 26 countries—including Iraq—to a first-ever meeting in Brussels in three weeks.
Among the objectives of that meeting: get local Arab forces into the fight.
“We are very much looking to the countries of the [Persian] Gulf,” Carter said of the coalition’s need to consolidate security in the region with additional military and non-military help, including economic and reconstruction aid.
“We agreed that we all must do more,” he said. The two spoke at a press conference Wednesday afternoon at France’s version of the Pentagon, the Hexagone-Balard.
“Daesh also must be uprooted in the minds of men,” said French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, calling on leaders to avoid a “pitfall of rhetoric” that “this is a war of religion.”
In his first visit here as defense secretary, prior to the coalition meeting Carter met with Le Drian and then laid a wreath at the makeshift memorial to last year’s Paris attacks at Place de la République. (Here’s a nice clip of his walkabout, tweeted by @AFNEurope.)
“They were truly galvanized, as many of the Europeans were, by the attacks in Paris. Therefore, it’s fitting that we hold this meeting in Paris,” Carter told reporters aboard his plane Tuesday.
Carter said then his Paris agenda included a true working ministerial meeting: “There’s a lot of attention, and justifiably so, on the air war and on sorties and so forth, and all of these countries have contributed in one way or another to that. But we will be discussing the full suite of capabilities that are going to be required for victory here, and that includes in the air ISR transport; it includes special operations forces of the sort that we don’t talk about a lot but that we’ve introduced in a number of different ways, including the expeditionary targeting force that we have discussed; it involves things that may seem prosaic to you but are extremely important.”
The secretary also said to expect more U.S. troops in Iraq.
“I expect the number of trainers to increase, and also the variety of the training they’re giving,” he said, re-emphasizing his recent remarks back in the States.
Expanding on those, Carter said that as coalition troops take back Iraqi cities, it will be up to Iraqi police forces to keep the peace – not American soldiers, Marines, etc.
“That’s already being done in Ramadi. It will be as we move to Heet, and then to Mosul,” he said Tuesday.