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Media Availability with Secretary Carter at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter
February 23, 2015

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Well, good afternoon. I'm sorry about the lateness of the hour.


I'll try to be brief and answer a couple of questions.


First of all, let me thank General Terry for hosting us here, and his entire staff.


They did that on very short notice. It's an usual kind of meeting. And they pulled it off impressively. Thank you.


I also want to thank all of those who participated in today's consultation, from our combatant commanders to our ambassadors and colleagues from around this region. Many traveled a significant distance on short notice to be here, and I sincerely appreciate it.


We had an incisive, candid, wide-ranging discussion. There were no briefings. It was the sharing of -- of experience and ideas and expertise and it made me very proud of the American team here in this region working on this problem of ISIL.


And our discussion this afternoon earned the seriousness and the complexity of the threat posed by ISIL, especially in an interconnected and networked world.


Lasting defeat of this brutal group can and will be accomplished. But I learned some things that we'll need to guide our effort to do so.


First, doing so, that is achieving the lasting defeat of ISIL, will require a combined diplomatic and military effort. That was abundantly confirmed by our discussion, and was affirmed or rather affirms the bringing together of this unique grouping of political and military leaders.


Second, I learned of the great strength of the coalition the United States has assembled and leads in this struggle, but also the need to leverage further the individual contributions of each.


And third, I think we found that while the center of gravity of this campaign is in Iraq and Syria, it has ramifications in other regions of the world that need to be taken into account also in our approach.


And fourth, it reflected to me that ISIL's use of social media will be pressing us to be more creative in combating it in the information dimension as well as the physical dimension.


And finally, I'd say that the discussion indicated clearly to me that this group is hardly invincible. Our efforts to date have already been having some important impacts. Our global coalition is up to the task, and so is American leadership, which has shone through -- throughout the course of this campaign.


So all in all, today's meeting was very productive and very valuable, and you should expect to see more consultations like this by me in the future, convening senior leaders from across our government and sometimes experts from outside of it to ensure that our nation's defense is as dynamic as the challenges before it.


Thank you and I'll take a few questions.


STAFF: I'll just take a few questions.


Q: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned the importance of a political-military combination of effort to balance. Is that balance -- is that out of balance, particularly with regard to what you're doing with Syria?


SEC. CARTER: Yeah, the campaign in Syria does, as you indicate, have both political and military dimensions. They're closely interconnected. We had an opportunity to review today the train and equip effort that is beginning in Syria, but I need to remind you and very much in the spirit of your question that -- and as the discussion certainly indicated there, our campaign in Syria, like our campaign in Iraq, has an important political dimension to it. And we discussed that also: they're both important, they're both essential, both the political and the military dimension.


Q: Mr. Secretary, do you come out of this meeting with a sense of there need to be any fundamental changes to the strategy? And apart from the information role, where do you see the weak links?


SEC. CARTER: I think we have the ingredients of the -- the strategy, as I indicated, a combined political and military effort. I think that's crucial, and I think that's understood by all, and it's reflected in what we're trying to do. I think that we have clearly in focus the idea that this can't be a purely American thing, that it truly is a coalition effort and needs to be a coalition effort to -- to succeed. I think it -- it was clear to us that we can't neatly partition it geographically, that it has global evocations.


So, I think on -- that our entire discussion reinforced the idea of the need to stitch all of the different aspects of this together, and that the leaders that I met with today are to a remarkable degree doing that. And this bringing them together was a further effort to work across geographies and work across functions to make sure that we are in fact all working closely together.


And to a large extent, these folks have been doing that already. But I think today's meeting reinforced that and gave them yet an opportunity to do that, and me to do that with them.


Q: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned the train and equip program. As you know, it's a much more difficult program than you know, compared to the Iraq or Afghanistan train and equip program.


Based on what you learned today, are you confident that this plan as publicly articulated will work, and that you could avoid -- you could build a force and avoid building a corrupt force or one that worse, poses dangers to the Americans who are going to be doing this training?


SEC. CARTER: We had a lot of experience at doing this. I think that -- that is one of the really core skills that the U.S. military has developed over many years now, most recently with respect to the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, but before that also.


It's a core skill of the U.S. military. It's become a skill of many of our coalition partners, knowing how to train others, how to work with and through others, how to enable and use U.S. capabilities to enable the capabilities of others and to make sure that they -- that -- that we conduct all these activities in a way that's consistent with American values. We're good at all that. We've been doing that in many contexts for quite awhile.


I would say it's -- it's one of the -- one of the key lessons that we learned in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's one of the key skills we honed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I don't think there's any military that does it better.


So, I think all of that will be reflected in -- in the train and equip program. I think we have that kind of trade-craft down.


Q: And you could pull it off based on the program that you have in place now? Do you think you can pull it off?


SEC. CARTER: Yeah, I think the people who are doing it are extremely experienced. And as I said, there's no military in the world that's better at enabling others and building the capacity of partners than -- than ours.


STAFF: Thanks guys. That's all the time you've got. Thank you.

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