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Presenter: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter; French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian January 20, 2016

Joint Press Conference by Secretary Carter and French Minister of Defense Le Drian in Paris, France


MINISTER OF DEFENSE JEAN-YVES LE DRIAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The joint efforts and those of all of the coalition is beginning to bear fruit, and that is -- (inaudible) -- little -- (inaudible). (inaudible) -- weeks, we have seen something resembling an epic slide -- in Daesh's position.

However, that should be to us a reason to step up our efforts. We have to fight the organization –on all fronts and make sure that we can uproot it on the ground and in the minds of men.

I say on the ground because Daesh is retreating. We have begun to cut off its resources and on the ground it is the time to step up our shared effort by implementing a consistent military strategy.

That was the prime objective of the meeting that the defense secretary and myself co-chaired today in the presence of our British, German, Italian, Dutch and Australian colleagues. Raqqah and Mosul must be won back. But beyond that, we must sever Daesh's territorial continuity. We must support our partners in the region in Iraq, or the Syrian Democratic Forces so that they can regain the territory occupied by IS and hold that territory durably.

This effort can only be successful within the bounds of the political process. And that process entails reintegrating the entire Iraqi community under the leadership of Prime Minister Abadi's government for Iraq and the inter Syrian process to lead to governance in Syria acceptable to the entire Syrian nation, so that the military forces of the country can focus their efforts against the IS. This is the extension of Vienna and the Riyadh process.

However, IS must also be uprooted in the minds of men. We must –refuse to fall into the pitfall of listening to this mantra of – a war of religion. We know that the war being conducted in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Sahel and sub- Africa and in our homelands, where (inaudible) minds are seduced and regimented by IS's propaganda. And this has cruelly shown by the number of young Frenchmen and young Americans who are joining an organization whose calling is death destruction and the establishment of a totalitarian order.

We are convinced of the need to stiffen our action and we are confident in the efficiency of the Franco-American relationship. We know that it will allow us to achieve our shared victory -- (inaudible).

We have an identical way of describing our objectives in this campaign. We must continue to reduce and paralyze Daesh's capacity. We must continue hindering its freedom of movement, striking –its command centers, its resources into -- (inaudible) and -- (inaudible) -- from the outside world. It is the method which will see Raqqah and Mosul freed from this tyranny.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will be happy to answer your questions later on but I should first to invite Ashton Carter to speak.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, and bonjour, everyone.

I want to begin by thanking Minister Le Drian for welcoming me to Paris, this magnificent city, which has shown such remarkable resilience, fortitude and determination.

This morning, it was my solemn honor to place a wreath at the Plaza de la Republique in memory of the victims of the November attack. I know I speak for every man and women in the U.S. Armed Forces when I say that we will always stand by the people of France, our oldest ally.

And our men and women in uniform are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder every day, around the globe, with French service members, helping ensure peace and stability, and defeat extremism in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, on the ground, in the air, at sea, and in the cyber and space domains.

I want to commend Minister Le Drian for his steadfast leadership, particularly in the campaign to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat. There is no other minister of Defense that I have spent as much time with as I have spent with as I have spent with Jean-Yves, discussing pressing issues that our two nations and our men and women in uniform face.

We were on the phone together hours after the November attack, coordinating a crushing response to ISIL in Raqqa, enhancing sharing of intelligence, and discussing the next steps for our coalition.

And long before that day, in fact, Minister Le Drian and I met at the Pentagon to discuss ways to accelerate the campaign against ISIL. His incisive observations and strong resolve played a critical role in refining our military campaign plan against ISIL.

Last week, I described the elements of this military campaign plan to the troops of the 101st Airborne Division of the United States -- no strangers, by the way, to French history -- who will soon deploy to Iraq to execute a part of this campaign.

The next day, I sat down with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joe Dunford, and two of our top commanders, General Lloyd Austin of CENTCOM, General Joe Votel of Special Operations Command, to review and detail the execution of the counter military -- counter -- excuse me, counter-ISIL military campaign plan, and how we can accelerate its execution.

And at the end of the week, we discussed the plan with President Obama and the National Security Council. The next logical step for what was us to go over this, how we can accelerate its execution.

And at the end of the week, we discussed the plan with President Obama and the National Security Council. The next logical step for what was for us to go over this campaign plan was some of our closest allies in this critical fight against ISIL.

And that's what I'm here in Paris for. The three key objectives of the counter ISIL military campaign are first, to destroy the ISIL cancer's parent tumor in Iraq and Syria by collapsing its two power centers in Raqqa and Mosul.

Second, to combat the metastasis of the ISIL tumor worldwide. And third, to protect our people at home.

To accomplish these objectives, we are, as Jean-Yves indicated, enabling local, motivated forces where ever ISIL has spread as the only practical strategic approach, not only to defeating ISIL, but also of sustaining its defeat thereafter.

We doing this by first providing a plan and clear leadership, and second, by the power of the global coalition wielding a mighty sweep of capabilities ranging from airstrikes, special forces, advice and assistance, equipment and training to local motivated forces, cyber tools, intelligence, mobility and logistics -- all this.

This is the plan by which the United States is doing more to accelerate the defeat of ISIL. But as Minister Le Drian has emphasized, this must be a coalition effort.

So, today, we had a productive conversation with our coalition partners, who are -- these members who are already making strong contributions, and who share our determination to accelerate the campaign.

I described the military campaign plan, and there is broad agreement, not only on this overall plan, but also on the necessity, as the minister has said, of accompanying non-military efforts, which are important also.

Next, we turned to the capabilities needed to carry out the military command plan. I asked Admiral Fox, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, to describe these capabilities. This discussion provided an opportunity for us, all of our -- us ministers, to align our views on the capabilities needed to prosecute, and indeed, accelerate the campaign, both military and non-military.

We agreed that we all must do more.

I believe today's discussion gave every minister the opportunity to discuss with their governments what else they can bring to the table, and how they can better align their efforts with our common goals and strategy.

For my part, I will bring the thoughts and commitments expressed by my counterparts directly to President Obama upon my return to the United States.

And I'd also like to announce that I have invited defense ministers from all 26 counter-ISIL military coalition nations, plus Iraq, to convene in Brussels in three weeks for a first ever discussion among coalition defense ministers to discuss the opportunities they and we have before us, and must seize to hasten ISIL's lasting defeat.

Every nation must come prepared to discuss further contributions to the fight, and I will not hesitate to engage and challenge current and prospective members of the coalition as we go forward.

Today's meeting of those who are already making very strong contributions was further proof of the strength of this coalition and the enduring partnership among these nations. And as I said on the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, when I visited in the Gulf last month, we are all one family in this fight.

We're very proud to be your friend and ally. And on a personal note, I have been proud and grateful to Paul Minister Le Drian, my friend, over the last few years. And I look forward to continuing that friendship long into the future.

Q: You speak English there?

Q: I am. Thank you much. –- inaudible -- from the Financial Times. But what I wanted to ask both ministers, it's noticeable that in this meeting here today, none of your partners from the region are here. What can you do to encourage and convince your Arab allies to do more in an effort against ISIS, other than making public statements, what sort of incentives and encouragement can you give them?

And second, if I could ask you about Libya, where ISIS has a growing presence. There's now a U.N. resolution recognizing the Unity government. Given that, does it make strategic military sense for you to take military action against ISIS in Libya, and is there any appetite amongst the countries here today, to take that sort of military action? Thank you.

SEC. CARTER: Shall I go first? Okay. Thank you. Well, on the first part, the point that you are making is a very important one. Which is that ultimately, the countries in the region can and must make a critical contribution to the success of this campaign.

That is the reason why we agreed to have a larger meeting in a few weeks' time. And, in addition, the capabilities discussion that was had today, in which we discussed all the capabilities required to carry out the military campaign plan, create opportunities that in many cases, other countries are better suited to take advantage of than either France or the United States is.

So, we are very much looking to the countries of the Gulf. And some of them, as you indicated, have indicated a willingness to do more. We want to encourage that welcome mat and if you match that in intention in the capabilities we have both in the military command plan and the non-military aspects of the campaign plan, there is a great deal that they could do, to not only defeat ISIL, but to consolidate security more broadly in the neighborhoods. That will be definitely something that we'll be talking about in three weeks' time.

And the part about -- your question about Libya. We did decide -- as I indicated -- discuss in general, the metastasis of ISIL around the world. Libya was not a particular focus of the discussions in this meeting obviously. The United States is supportive of the political process there, but it was not a major focus of the discussion here today.

MIN. LE DRIAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Since the beginning of the coalition, it was the first meeting of the ministers of defense and we do hope that -- be at the operation -- to be larger -- three weeks in Brussels. And the -- French minister for defense has seen that some countries have already stepped up their effort.

You intervened in Syria. Also, as another example, Germany has also certain actions, Belgium also. Belgium hasn't forget, that is now accompanying the French Air and Naval group and other countries are going to step up their efforts also.

And I think it was very useful for us to meet in this format, first of all, to take stock of the situation, but also to see what the future will be made of and also to see what our action plan will be and what our capacities need to be.

Now, to answer to the second part of the question on Libya, Libya was not today's subject and we, of course noted, the existence of a new government that is led by Farsara and we do consider that this is a very important step.

Finally, from the -- and this we hope, will bring stability and security to the region.

Q (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In Tikrit, we have criticism of bombing strikes and actions with an enormous number of civilian causalities. Following the Paris attacks, the French president said he expected greater coordination with the Russians.

Where do we stand for the next -- how can you coordinate the Russians in view of what is going on on the ground?

MIN. LE DRIAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): On Russia. Our view is that Russia is a very major player in the Syrian affair that -- our view of that role however, is that we would like Russia to focus its efforts against ISIS and stop striking the insurgent groups who themselves are combating Daesh.

(inaudible) that these same groups in Riyadh. and to only -- their making themselves -- (inaudible) -- supportive of the U.N. resolution. And that is now our main concern with Russia. The French president asked me to meet with the Soviet -- with the Russian defense minister. So I went to Moscow last December and said –just that fighting Daesh means fighting Daesh, period.

And you can only coordinate if you have clearly identified and shared objectives on them.

SEC. CARTER: I concur exactly with what the minister said. Our work with the Russians on this subject remains focused very specifically on de-conflicting our military activities. We don't have a basis for broader cooperation, as Minister Le Drian said, because the Russians are on the wrong track strategically, and also in some cases tactically, as was noted.

And until that changes, there isn't enough common basis for cooperation.

I appreciate, by the way, the minister's perspective since he was there in conversations very recently. I appreciated hearing his perspective.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

Next question in English.

Q: Hello. Two questions.

Mr. Secretary, if you could speak to -- you've described all these nations who are kind of marching forward together against a common enemy. But could you give us a little better sense of what the challenges are in coordinating that group? Because clearly, not everybody has all the same -- specifically the same agendas and same objectives there.

If you can give it some -- some sense of what going forward we might see more specifically out of the group.

And Minister, if you could tell us if the French have committed special forces to the fight? And if not, if you're willing to do so. And I'm also curious if you're willing to host American aircraft on the DeGaulle.

Thank you.

SEC. CARTER: Okay. The coalition is, as you correctly note, built around the perception of a common enemy in ISIL. Those countries have in other respects other interests, and we respect that. And we intend to take those other interests into account as we combat ISIL. But it is the top priority of the coalition to defeat ISIL.

One of the reasons to have the conversation in three weeks' time is precisely to align the strategy and the approach of the counter-ISIL campaign with not only other interests of other parties, but the other capabilities of other parties.

And this is just to repeat something I said earlier, the important part of our discussion today was to talk about all of the capabilities that will be required to succeed here, not just military, but non-military -- non-military being economic in terms of reconstruction; information in terms of countering extremism; things that are not the responsibilities of Minister Le Drian or myself, but which are terribly important.

When you array all these capabilities, you see how different parties can make stronger contributions, each in their own distinctive way, according to their own strengths.

So it is important to take into account different perspectives in different countries, both because they have different interests, but we need to highlight the common interest to defeat ISIL. But they also have different capabilities, different things that they can bring. And in some cases, things that they can bring to the fight that they're better suited to do than either France or the United States is.

So, this is going to be a great opportunity in three weeks precisely to align both interests and capabilities with a strong and necessary common purpose, which is to defeat ISIL.

MIN. LE DRIAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Through a tradition in this country -- which I shall uphold, that neither chief of staff, nor the minister will ever tell you where the special forces are being deployed to, and how they are organized.

Once again, I shall uphold that principle, which we hold very dear. However, this is not true when they cooperate with U.S. special forces -- their operations outstanding.

Potential hosting of U.S. aircraft –on the Charles DeGaulle I really don't think that technically speaking -- (inaudible) -- but if this were to ever happen, I personally would have no objection to it being done.

MODERATOR: Last question will be in French. Hello?

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Hello -- (inaudible).

Minister, I have a question on the Sahel The French and Americans have done an excellent job together in tragic circumstances. But -- (inaudible) -- have shown -- (inaudible). Also, they're -- (inaudible).

MIN. LE DRIAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Recently, in the form of suicide -- (inaudible) -- attack -- (inaudible) -- the actions we must conduct in the Sahel -- (inaudible) -- is still, to some extent -- (inaudible).

And yet, if we can bear -- (inaudible) -- has reverted to a democratic process, and -- (inaudible).

So, for France, there seems no -- (inaudible). (inaudible) -- and -- (inaudible) -- (inaudible) -- and we have 3,000 -- 3,500 men on the ground. (inaudible) -- what -- (inaudible) -- this -- (inaudible) -- fight -- (inaudible).

SEC. CARTER: Thank you, Jean-Yves. The only thing I'd like to say about that situation is the admiration and gratitude of the United States for French leadership in this area. It's yet another example of the global reach of French power and authority in the world, and we're grateful to have a partner like that.

And for our part, you're right, we have been working with the French now -- the only thing I'll say is that the United States is committed to continuing that cooperation and that is a widely shared view in the United States. So we have the authority to do that. We have the funding to do that. And once again, we're just grateful to France for the leadership in that regard.

And on your question about hostages, I don't have anything for you in that area. Our State Department leads that kind of effort and they're obviously monitoring the situation very closely I don't have anything to add.

MIN. LE DRIAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): One -- (inaudible) -- saw -- (inaudible) -- the purpose is indeed for the African countries to be able to provide their own security. And -- (inaudible) -- terrorism, therefore, because obviously our armed forces are not necessarily best-suited or best-accustomed to that type of fighting.

The American financial cooperation, which Ashton Carter has just mentioned, is absolutely key. It has been consolidated and confirmed for the budgetary appropriations fiscal year 2016.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.


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