Washington-Defense officials and leaders from more than 30 countries gathered at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to agree on the next steps in the campaign against ISIS.
The meeting was attended by Deputy Crown Prince, Prime Minister and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said tangible results were achieved in the fight against the terrorist group.
“Thanks to this global coalition, our clear and deliberate campaign plan, our dedicated local partner forces, and the sacrifices of our militaries’ members… we now have momentum in this fight and clear results on the ground,” Carter said in his opening speech.
“Our campaign’s strategic approach is to identify and enable capable and motivated local forces who can deliver ISIS a lasting defeat,” Carter said. “Only local forces can deliver and sustain such a defeat by holding and governing territory after it has been retaken from ISIS,” he added.
Carter noted that the coalition campaign was working towards the achievement of three main objectives: fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria where the group’s leaders declared a caliphate; combating the terrorist group elsewhere in the world; and finally protecting coalition homelands.
The Defense secretary also said that there has been much progress since the previous year when Army Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland became the overall operational commander for Inherent Resolve.
He added that the campaign set in motion a series of specific and deliberate steps that the coalition had to accomplish to put ISIS on a path to a lasting defeat.
In a news conference he held following Wednesday’s meeting, Carter said the defense ministers agreed on the next steps in the campaign that will lead to the collapse of ISIS control over the regions of Mosul and Raqqa.
“The biggest strategic concern of this group of defense ministers was that the stabilization and governance effort will lag behind the military campaign,” Carter said.
“Making sure there’s no such lag must be a significant strategic priority for us. We discussed it today and it will be an important focus of our conversation tomorrow at the State Department with our foreign ministry counterparts,” he added.
In the same context, Carter expressed gratitude to Saudi Arabia for its close partnership with his country.
Carter met on Wednesday with the Saudi deputy Crown Prince on the sidelines of the defense ministerial meeting.
“This meeting provided an opportunity for the two leaders to continue discussions from their bilateral meeting held at the Pentagon in June,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said.
“They discussed the fight against ISIS and the coalition’s recent results, Saudi Arabia’s military capability development and regional security issues,” he added.
Cook also noted that Carter highlighted the U.S. commitment to its enduring defense partnership with Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, a high-ranking military official at the Pentagon told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that Saudi Arabia’s participation in the meeting was very important and confirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to fighting terrorism in general and ISIS in particular.
He added that a statement issued by Cook a couple of months ago noted that Saudi Arabia has participated in military airstrikes within the U.S.-led global coalition against ISIS.
The Pentagon said on Wednesday that Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with defense and foreign ministers at the State Department on Thursday to discuss regional and international affairs.