FEBRUARY 19, 2019 – Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said he is pleased with the progress of the coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and he reiterated America’s steadfast support for the effort.
Shanahan spoke following a meeting of coalition defense ministers in Munich this morning.
“As a 79-member team, our coalition has taken a strong and united stand against the ISIS threat globally with a particular emphasis on Iraq and Syria,” he said. “The United States appreciates every coalition member’s unique contribution to the collective D-ISIS efforts. Together, we have eliminated the group’s hold on over 99 percent of the territory it once claimed as its so-called caliphate.”
It has not been an easy fight. Iraqi troops took Mosul back from ISIS in particularly bitter fighting. Syrian Democratic Forces wrested the ISIS capital of Raqqa back after months of fighting. The final remnants of the terror group are now under tremendous assault in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.
“We have destroyed its ability to mass forces,” Shanahan said. “We have eliminated most of its leadership and significantly diminished its resources.”
U.S. Committed to Fight
U.S. service members in northeast Syria are heading home. Still, “The United States remains committed to our coalition’s cause: The permanent defeat of ISIS both in the Middle East and beyond,” the acting secretary said. “As we make this tactical change, we remain a stabilizing force for peace in the Middle East alongside our may allies and partners.”
Shanahan said the U.S. military will maintain counterterrorism capabilities in the Middle East and will continue to support local partners as those forces wipe up the remnants of the terror group.
The defense ministers used the Munich meeting to look to the future of the coalition. “I for one envision an even bigger coalition going forward — one that has evolved to meet the global threat posed by ISIS’s offshoots and its murderous ideology,” he said.
Shanahan said he sees a coalition going after the group’s malign influences in Afghanistan, the Philippines, the African Sahel region, the Sulu Sea and elsewhere. These strategies must be tailored for the region and threat, he said. “Our coalition is addressing the threat in each region and what is required from us to meet these threats,” he said.
Shanahan emphasized that the defeat ISIS effort involves the whole of government, and though this meeting was among defense ministers, they realize that a military solution is not the only solution. Coalition militaries will play a part, but diplomatic, economic and political efforts may be the best solutions depending on the region.
By Jim Garamone