Further accelerating pressure to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremists will highlight discussions with top military leaders at U.S. Central Command today, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a news conference.
The secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., are meeting at Centcom in Tampa, Florida, with Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, Centcom commander, and Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.
Today’s top-level discussions will center on strategies and on activating the accelerated anti-ISIL campaign, Carter said, adding that President Barack Obama gave the latest military actions the go-ahead in the fall based on recommendations from the four leaders.
Accelerating the Campaign
“[Those military actions] have allowed us to accelerate the campaign, gather momentum, and pressure ISIL in Iraq and Syria on more fronts than at any other point in the campaign,” the secretary told reporters.
“This pressure is having an effect against ISIL,” Carter said. “It is also generating additional opportunities to further accelerate the implementation of the campaign.”
Carter thanked Centcom’s senior military leadership and personnel for their around-the-clock work to increase the momentum on ISIL’s lasting defeat and taking advantage of opportunities to do so, while building “a more secure future in Afghanistan, countering Iran’s malign influence [and] maintaining security and freedom of navigation in the Gulf.”
A Three-Pronged Strategy
Yesterday, the secretary laid out the campaign’s three objectives to soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division headquarters and 2nd Brigade Combat Team at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. They will deploy to Iraq later this year as part of the counter-ISIL campaign.
Those objectives are to destroy the ISIL “parent tumor” in Iraq and Syria by collapsing its two power centers, to combat the metastases of the ISIL tumor worldwide, and to protect the homeland, Carter said.
The operational concept of the campaign is to enable local, motivated forces with a clear plan, American leadership, a global coalition, and a suite of capabilities ranging from airstrikes, special operations forces raids, cyber tools, intelligence, equipment, mobility and logistics, training, advice and assistance, he said.
Future of Centcom
The secretary called Austin and Votel “two of our nation’s finest leaders.”
Noting Austin’s upcoming departure from Centcom, Carter said his career was remarkable during an extraordinary and complex period, and that he was integral in defeating threats and developing solutions while spearheading military efforts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, at sea, in the air, on the ground, and in cyber domain, “all with incredible skill, vision, and talent.”
Carter said he’s confident Obama will nominate Votel to take over command of Centcom – where he would bring experience in air, land, sea and special operations.
Votel’s military experience gives him “the perspective and knowledge to lead the many soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen operating within this crucial command,” the secretary said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)