WASHINGTON (Dec. 1, 2015) — The Defense Department is quickly
adapting to fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and is
urging the international community to step up the pace of its
contributions to the fight, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today.
The secretary, joined by Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford
Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before members of
the House Armed Services Committee on U.S. strategy for Syria and Iraq.
“The president had directed us to intensify and adapt the
military campaign before the [Nov. 13] Paris attacks,” Carter told the
panel. “We continue to accelerate our efforts in the wake of Paris, and
we are urging others to do the same, because those attacks further
highlighted the stake that not just the United States, but the world,
has in this fight.”
Adapting to ISIL
Carter said specific elements of the adaptations to ISIL
include deploying a specialized expeditionary targeting force, expanding
U.S. attacks on ISIL infrastructure and revenue sources, improving ways
to find and eliminate ISIL leadership, and organizing a new way to
leverage established infrastructure.
Tens of thousands of U.S. personnel are operating in the
broader Middle East region, and more are on the way, the secretary said.
Some of the most advanced U.S. air and naval forces are
attacking ISIL, he added, and U.S. troops advise and assist ground
operations in Syria and Iraq.
“On President [Barack] Obama’s orders and the chairman’s and my
advice, we’re sending special operations forces personnel to Syria to
support the fight against ISIL,” Carter said.
In coordination with the Iraq government, the department is
deploying a specialized expeditionary targeting force to help Iraqi and
Kurdish peshmerga forces and to put more pressure on ISIL.
“These special operators will, over time, be able to conduct
raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders,” the
secretary said. “That creates a virtuous cycle of better intelligence,
which generates more targets, more raids and more momentum.”
Raids in Iraq will take place at the Iraqi government’s
invitation and will focus on defending Iraq’s borders and building Iraqi
security forces capacity, he added, and the special operators will be
in a position to conduct unilateral operations into Syria.
Expanding U.S. Attacks
The department also significantly expanded U.S. attacks on ISIL
infrastructure and revenue sources, especially oil revenue, Carter
“Over the past several weeks, because of improved intelligence
and understanding of ISIL’s operations, we’ve intensified the air
campaign against ISIL’s war-sustaining oil enterprise, a critical pillar
of ISIL’s financial infrastructure,” he told the panel.
Coalition forces have destroyed fixed facilities, such as wells
and processing facilities, and nearly 400 ISIL oil tanker trucks,
Carter said. “There’s more to come, too,” he added.
Raids using targeted airstrikes and the specialized
expeditionary targeting force are helping to improve the ability to
eliminate ISIL’s leadership, he said.
Because the threat posed by ISIL and similar groups spans
regions and U.S. combatant commands, Carter said, the department is
organizing a new way to leverage infrastructure already established in
Afghanistan, the Levant, East Africa and Southern Europe into a unified
capability to counter transnational and transregional threats.
“An example of this network in action was our recent strike on
Abu Nabil, where assets from several locations converged to successfully
kill this ISIL leader in Libya,” he said. “As that strike shows,
there’s a lot of potential here, but to do more, we need to be creative
and consider changes to how the Defense Department works and is
Carter said the department is constantly looking to do more in the fight against ISIL, but the world must do the same.
“The international community, including our allies and
partners, has to step up before another attack like Paris,” the
secretary said. France has been galvanized by the attacks in its
capital, Britain is debating expanded airstrikes, Italy has made
important contributions in Iraq, and Germany is making more
contributions, he noted. . All countries, including the United States,
must do more, he added.
Turkey must do more to control its border, and Saudi Arabia and
the Gulf States have been preoccupied by the Yemen conflict after
joining the air campaign in the early days, Carter said. Russia, which
publicly committed to defeating ISIL, has largely attacked opposition
forces rather than ISIL, the secretary told the House committee.
“It is time for Russia to focus on the right side of this fight,” he said.
American leadership is essential, he added, but contributions
from other nations will boost the combat power the department can
achieve using its own force.
“We also need to leverage our allies’ and partners’
relationships and capabilities to effectively work with Syrians and
Iraqis, who in the end must expel ISIL and restore effective
governance," the secretary said.