“We are at war,” says Secretary of Defense on anti-ISIL strategy
WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Ash Carter spoke before the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday and elaborated on the Department of Defense’s Middle East strategy.
“We are at war,” Carter said before the committee when describing the number of American troops dedicated to Operation Inherent Resolve and other campaigns in the region meant to combat ISIL.
Currently there are 3,500 troops in Iraq supporting Iraqi Security Forces and President Obama recently ordered Special Operation Forces to be sent to the region as well, according to Carter.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Jawad Kadhim Al-Abadi has been vocal in his frustration with the lack of progress made in recapturing areas of Iraq controlled by ISIL, a fact Carter mentioned in his speech before the committee.
“Despite his efforts, sectarian politics and Iranian influence have made building a multi-sectarian Iraqi Security Force difficult,” Carter said.
However, the government of Iraq along with Kurdish Peshmerga forces and U.S. Special Forces are planning on conducting more raids like the one in which Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed by small arms fire when freeing 70 hostages from an ISIL prison and became the first U.S. casualty in the war against ISIL.
Carter outlined another strategy by the U.S. to degrade ISIL by destroying its infrastructure, which mainly consists of oil.
“We’ve destroyed nearly 400 of ISIL’s oil tanker trucks,” Carter said adding, “there’s more to come too.”
The DoD’s strategy to counter ISIL doesn’t only include Iraq and Syria. Carter described ISIL as a “tumor” that has “metastasized elsewhere.” Carter stated the DoD plans to move it’s anti-ISIL strategy to cover areas in “Afghanistan, the Levant, East Africa, and Southern Europe.”
Carter also took the opportunity to condemn Russian airstrikes, which have been largely targeting opposition forces and not ISIL, according to Carter.
“It is time for Russia to focus on the right side of this fight,” Carter said.