WASHINGTON — US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called out members of “our so-called coalition” Tuesday for not doing more to fight the Islamic State group, commonly known as ISIL or ISIS.
Carter’s comments, made at a public forum in Washington, appeared to set the tone for his trip to Belgium next week for a major gathering of the anti-ISIS coalition leadership.
“A lot of them are doing — making considerable contributions to this, but some of them are not. And you really have to look at this — this is a fight of civilization against — for its own survival,” Carter said. “And we need everybody, and that's all the Europeans — the Gulf States, which aren't doing [enough], Turkey, which is right there on the border. So, there are a lot that need to make more contributions.”
Over the last several months, Carter has been increasingly vocal about disappointment in what the coalition partner have brought to the table, with Turkey and Gulf regional allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates the most frequent targets of his comments.
In August, Carter insisted Turkey must “do more” to help in the fight; in December, he poked at the Gulf partners for prioritizing high-end air assets over ground forces, and how that is hampering the anti-ISIS operation.
Then in late January, Carter said it was “one of the great ironies” that the Gulf nations most at risk from the rise of the terrorist group have not contributed more to the fight, adding, “Up to now, they haven’t done enough. We want them to do more.”
On Tuesday, Carter acknowledged that some partners are participating, calling out the British and Australian forces in particular, but indicated frustration with the lack of support from other nations.
“The reality is that we've got a coalition that is committed at the political level to defeat ISIL, and that needs to be translated into the operational military contributions they're making,” he said. “That's what I'll be doing next week in Europe.”
Carter said his plan for the Belgium trip is to gather all the defense ministers in one place, sit them down, and unveil the full campaign plan from the Pentagon.
“What I'm going to do with them is to say, all right, here are all the capabilities that are needed — boots on the ground, airplanes in the air, more prosaic things, logistics, bridging, training — training for those police that are going to patrol cities like they're patrolling Ramadi now once the cities are retaken.” Carter said. “And I'm going to say, ‘OK, guys, let's match up what is needed to win, with what you have,’ and kind of give everybody the opportunity to make an assignment for themselves.
“The United States will lead this and we're determined, but other people have to do their part,” he added. “Civilization has to fight for itself.”
According to the latest Pentagon figures, the Department of Defense has spent $5.4 billion from the start of anti-ISIS strikes on Aug. 8, 2014, through Dec. 21. That averages out to a daily cost of $11.4 million spread out over 511 days of operations. Some 69 percent of that cost has been borne by the US Air Force, 14 percent by the Army, 11 percent by the Navy and 7 percent from Special Forces.
Carter pledged Tuesday that the Pentagon's fiscal year 2017 budget request contains $7.5 billion for the anti-ISIS campaign, as well as another $1.8 billion for munitions that have begun to run dry due to the daily nature of US strikes.