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Defense Secretary on ISIS: 'We Need to Get This Over With'

Defense Secretary Ash Carter addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., April 5, 2016. (DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee)

Asked about the fight against ISIS today, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter stressed “we need to get this over with.”

Carter was taking questions after a talk on preparing the Defense Department for the future today at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“Beyond terrorism, we also potentially face future nation-state adversaries with widening geographic reach but also widening exposure, something we may want to take into account in order to de-escalate a crisis and to deter aggression. In other cases, we may have to respond to multiple threats across the globe in overlapping time frames,” Carter said during his speech.

“…We’re not postured to be as agile as we could be. Accordingly, we need to clarify the role and authority of the Chairman, and in some cases the Joint Chiefs and the Joint Staff.”

In the Q&A, Carter said of ISIS, “We have got to get these guys beaten as soon as possible, which is basically where I’m coming from.”

“We are looking for every opportunity we can take to do that. Of course, our overall strategic approach is not only to defeat ISIL, but to keep them defeated. That means you also have to look ahead to the next stage and who is going to keep the peace afterwards, which is why we try to work with local forces where they can be made capable and motivated, which is difficult in some places but that is a necessary part of the strategy,” he said.

The Defense secretary added that “we’re doing more every day” and “we’re looking for opportunities to do yet more, because we need to get this over with.”

“So I’m confident we’ll defeat ISIL. I have no question in my mind about it, but the sooner the better.”

“That has us looking at every conceivable way that we can do that. That’s why I mentioned cyber, for example. Now that, years ago, even a few years ago wouldn’t have occurred to a secretary of Defense. Say, ‘let’s get cyber in the game,’ but here we have a real opportunity, these guys are really using this tool,” he said, referring to ISIS’ saturated presence on both open Internet platforms and the dark web. “And we need to take it away from them, that in addition to everything we do in the air, and on the ground, and so forth.”

“So yes, we are accelerating it. We are gathering momentum. But I want to see it over with, first of all, in Syria and Iraq and then everywhere around the world.”

Asked about the necessity of NATO today, Carter said “we’re looking to it for two particular things, which are very necessary.”

“One, is to stand tall against the Russian — the possibility of Russian aggression in Europe, which, I’m sorry to say, has become again something that we need to be concerned about that we weren’t for awhile. And I regret it, but it is what it is,” he said. “And also the possibility of so-called hybrid warfare, you know, the little green men phenomenon. So, hardening our friends and allies against that.”

“And then secondly, helping us in the counter-ISIL fight. Now, you might say, why? All the NATO members are individually members of the counter-ISIL coalition. So you say, what difference does it make having NATO as NATO in the counter-ISIL fight? …For a lot of the smaller countries, it’s hard for them to do anything on their own and to join something ad hoc. But if they get into a NATO structure, it is easier for them to make a contribution. We’re looking for all the contributions we can get.”