By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Ash Carter told his United Kingdom counterpart State Secretary for Defense Michael Fallon in a phone call June 24 that the two nations will always enjoy a special relationship reflected in close defense ties — a bedrock of U.S. security and foreign policy, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters.
“The secretary reaffirmed that those bonds endure after yesterday’s vote by the United Kingdom to exit the European Union,” Cook told reporters.
Cook also updated reporters on counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant efforts in Syria and Iraq.
Cook added that Carter emphasized the United States’ “unshakeable commitment to NATO, of which the United Kingdom is a vital member, and to the vision we share with our allies, the United Kingdom, and other European nations.”
Carter welcomed Fallon’s commitment to continuing the United Kingdom’s active and enduring role in global security issues, Cook said, and its work within NATO and efforts to accelerate the lasting defeat of ISIL, in particular.
“The two leaders committed to work together to strengthen international partnerships that have helped ensure security for the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and the world,” Cook said. “We will see that close work together continues in next month’s NATO summit in Warsaw, and it’s on display every day in the fight against ISIL.”
Condemning North Korea’s Provocations
In a teleconference today, Defense Department officials and counterparts from South Korea and Japan discussed North Korea’s recent missile launches, Cook told reporters.
“These and other North Korean missile launches are violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions that explicitly prohibit North Korea’s use of ballistic missile technology,” he said of the North Korean missile launches, the latest of which occurred June 21.
“All three countries reiterated their strong condemnation of these launches and urged North Korea to refrain from provocative actions that undermine peace and security and instead focus on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments,” Cook said, adding the three nations noted that North Korea’s provocations would only strengthen the resolve of the international community.
Cook added the United States reaffirms its “ironclad alliance” commitments to defend South Korea and Japan.
Arab-led Forces Push Into Manbij
Turning to the fight to defeat ISIL, Cook said despite continued enemy resistance in the Syrian city of Manbij, Arab-led forces have begun pushing into the city, which they’ve surrounded on all sides while conducting clearing operations of ISIL forces on the city’s outskirts.
Over the past 24 hours near Manbij, Cook said, eight coalition airstrikes against ISIL assets have struck seven of its tactical units, destroying six fighting positions and two vehicles. Since the ground operation to assault Manbij began four weeks ago, coalition forces have conducted 246 strikes in support of local ground forces, he added.
“Cutting off ISIL’s access through Manbij means taking away [one of its] major foreign fighter hubs. It’s also an important step in our coalition’s push toward ultimately targeting ISIL’s self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa,” Cook said.
More Than 70 Percent of Fallujah Cleared
And in Fallujah, Iraq, government forces have cleared more than 70 percent of the city, Cook said. And in five weeks since ground operations began to retake the city from ISIL control, he added, coalition forces have conducted 100 airstrikes in support of Iraqi ground forces.
“The loss of Fallujah will further deny [ISIL] access to a province critically important to its overall goals. It will also reduce their ability to threaten civilians in Baghdad,” Cook told reporters. “And, of course, all of these operations are being enabled by a global coalition of nations united in the fight against ISIL — the U.K. [being] among the integral members of that coalition and a stalwart ally of the United States.”