International military operations for U.S. forces have evolved to work by, with and through, allied nations who join the United States in a range of efforts, including the U.S.-led coalition formed to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said yesterday.
Mattis briefed reporters traveling with him en route to U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida. The secretary is on a trip to three military headquarters -- Centcom, U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Southern Command -- all in south Florida.
This is Mattis' first trip to the headquarters, he said, although he and the combatant commanders there talk every week during video teleconferences and he sees them when they visit the Pentagon.
"By doing this, I close the gap between myself and commanders who have the burden of carrying out policy," Mattis told the reporters. "I get [that information] unfiltered, because we have more discussion than just weekly reports in video teleconferences. I think what you're going to see in all three of these commands is the way our military … has evolved, specifically under President [Donald J.] Trump, [in working] by, with and through allies."
By, With and Through
The number of different country flags flying at each combatant command headquarters represents this evolution, the secretary said.
"You'll see a lot more than the American flag," he added. "For example, when I was in Tampa, I had 67 nations at the U.S. Central Command headquarters. Mattis was Centcom commander from August 2010 to March 2013.
"They give a little bit more flesh on the bone to the defeat-ISIS coalition right now," Mattis said, noting that the coalition today includes 69 nations and four international organizations -- the Arab League, NATO, the European Union, and Interpol.
Interpol asked what more they could do about ISIS fighters trying to go home, he said, "and Interpol is going to have the databases we all feed into so police departments around the world will know where somebody's showing up."
Through military-to-military relations with all allies, Mattis added, "we try to maintain a very steady engagement with open lines of communication. And the whole idea is you look for common ground to work together, and we are unapologetic about our values. But at the same time, we respect the other countries."
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)