Homeland Security

In London, Carter Can't Guarantee U.S. Will Stay 'Actively Engaged as Leader of This Coalition' to Defeat ISIS

Britain's Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon greets Secretary of Defense Ash Carter outside the Foreign Office in London on Dec. 15, 2016. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool via AP)

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters in London today that while he can’t give allies assurances that the next administration will continue leading the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State, he believes he can make a good case for continuity with his successor.

Appearing at a joint press conference with his counterpart, UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, Carter emphasized that the “coalition military campaign plan we laid out last January has been on track and proceeding just as we envisioned.”

Foreign ministers discussed how “countries can do even more to accelerate ISIL’s defeat, because the sooner we defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria, the safer all of us in our homelands will be.”

“I was pleased to hear around the table today a number of coalition countries announce additional military contributions that they’ll be making to accelerate the campaign,” Carter added.

Fallon declared that ISIS “is now failing.”

“It controls less than 10 percent of the Iraqi. It’s lost more than a quarter of land it once held in Syria. Its supply of recruits has dried up. And more than 25,000 Daesh fighters have now been killed,” the British secretary said. “…In the last three years, our police and security services have disrupted 12 plots here in the United Kingdom, all either linked to or inspired by Daesh. And that is why the coalition needs to do even more to share its intelligence insight.”

Carter, who has been on a two-week trip with his wife Stephanie to thank U.S. troops, acknowledged “we’re undergoing a presidential transition in America right now — and as I did today with my counterparts, I will share my lessons learned with my successor at the appropriate time, detailing the logic of our campaign plan and the strategic approach, and how we’re seeing results on the ground.”

“And among my recommendations will be the need for the United States to remain actively engaged as leader of this coalition, to ensure that we deliver ISIL a lasting defeat and continue to protect our homelands,” he said.

The Defense secretary said he “can’t give assurances” to coalition allies that the U.S. will stay the course, but he has “confidence in the future of the coalition campaign.”

“It’s logical. It makes sense. And therefore, I expect that — that logic will recommend itself to the future leadership of the United States even as it has recommended itself to the current leadership of the United States,” Carter continued. “It reflects our common values and the determination of our people to protect themselves and to defeat an evil organization like ISIL. It’s worth noting that it is a coalition approach; that the coalition makes up a — just to take one metric — a third of the force that is operating in Iraq. And that’s a good thing.”

“I will say to my successor… I expect that they’ll have the same attitude that we do and that is shared by the group in this room today, which is we’re constantly looking for ways to accelerate the campaign. We look for opportunities, we’ve seized opportunities every time we’ve found one. And I expect that that desire to accelerate will perceive — will persist also because it makes sense.”

Fallon said the UK is going to “aim off the campaign rhetoric and look at what the new administration actually does.”

“We’re dealing here with a global threat from Daesh, a threat that isn’t just present in Iraq and Syria, but is present in Western Europe. It’s hit Paris. It’s hit Brussels. It’s present in the Far East. And — and hit California. This is a global threat, and I have no doubt that the next U.S. administration will step up to its traditional role of global leadership,” the British minister said, expressing confidence in the nomination of former NATO commander retired Gen. James Mattis to succeed Carter.