By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Ash Carter is in Paris to meet with his French counterpart and to attend a defense ministerial, which will be the first face-to-face meeting of representatives from all seven countries providing major contributions to the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
The secretary met with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and tomorrow will attend the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
While in Davos, Carter said he would speak with important leaders on topics that include the counter-ISIL campaign.
“This morning it was my solemn honor to place a wreath at the Place de La Republique in memory of the victims of the November attacks,” Carter said in remarks prepared for a press conference in Paris today with Le Drian.
“I know I speak for every man and woman in the U.S. armed forces when I say that we will always stand by the people of France, our oldest ally,” the secretary added.
Carter said that he and Le Drian were on the phone hours after the Nov. 13 attacks on Paris, coordinating a crushing response against ISIL in Raqqa, enhancing intelligence sharing and discussing the coalition’s next steps.
“Long before that day,” the secretary said, “Minister Le Drian and I met at the Pentagon to discuss ways to accelerate our campaign against ISIL. His incisive observations and strong resolve played a critical role in refining our military campaign plan against ISIL.”
The campaign’s objectives, Carter said, are to destroy ISIL’s headquarters in Iraq and Syria, combat ISIL elements worldwide and protect the U.S. homeland from attacks by the terrorist group.
To do this, the coalition is enabling local, motivated forces wherever ISIL has spread as the only viable way of defeating ISIL and sustaining its defeat, he added.
“We’re doing this by providing a plan, clear leadership and the power of a global coalition wielding a suite of capabilities [that include] airstrikes, special forces, cyber tools, intelligence, equipment, mobility and logistics, and training, advice and assistance, Carter said.
This plan accelerates the U.S. effort to defeat ISIL, and today Carter said he discussed the plan with coalition partners who are already making strong contributions to the fight.
The defense ministerial — held this morning and co-hosted by France and the United States — offered a chance to align coalition partner views on capabilities needed to prosecute the military and nonmilitary campaigns, the secretary said.
Defense ministers from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States attended the meeting.
“We agreed that we all must do more, and I believe today’s discussion has given every minister the opportunity to discuss with their governments what else they can bring to the table and how they can better align their efforts with our common goals and strategy,” he added.
In a joint statement released after the meeting, the ministers reaffirmed their governments’ commitment to work together with the entire counter-ISIL coalition to accelerate and intensify the campaign against ISIL to deliver a lasting defeat.
“We expressed our broad support for the campaign plan objectives and the need to continue gathering momentum in our campaign as it moves into its next phase targeting [ISIL’s] vulnerabilities,” the ministers wrote.
They also discussed military campaign requirements to expand efforts against ISIL and committed to work together with other military and non-military contributors to fill these requirements, and they agreed to review regularly the coalition’s campaign plan and the progress in its implementation, according to the statement.
Carter said he would take the results of the ministerial directly to President Barack Obama when he returns home.
In three weeks, the first meeting of defense ministers from all 26 counter-ISIL military coalition nations plus Iraq will convene in Brussels to discuss other opportunities to hasten ISIL’s lasting defeat, he added.
“Every nation must come prepared to discuss further contributions to the fight,” Carter said, “and I will not hesitate to engage and challenge current and prospective members of the coalition as we go forward.”
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)