WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Tuesday there are 3,700 American troops in Iraq fighting the Islamic State, but Turkey, the Gulf nations and Europe also need to to provide more military manpower against the terrorist group.
During a speech to the Economic Club of Washington, Carter said the United States is in a coalition with other nations that are committed at the political level to defeating ISIL, another name for the Islamic state, but that commitment needs to be translated to military operations.
“The U.S. will lead this (fight) and we’re determined, but other people have to do their part,” he said. “Civilization has to fight for itself. “
Carter said the Pentagon intends to increase spending against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, to $7.5 billion.
In addition, the Defense Department will propose in its fiscal 2017 budget to quadruple the money it spends on U.S. military personnel and training in Europe, home of European Command, from $789 million to $3.4 billion, he said, which should encourage its European allies to further participate in the war against ISIL and discourage Russian aggression.
“We need everybody, and that’s all the Europeans, the Gulf States, which includes Turkey that is right there on the border,” he said. “Yes, we’re going to do more, we got to win … the other members of the coalition aren’t doing very much … not all of them but many of them are.”
Carter will meet with foreign defense ministers next week and present the U.S. attack plan against ISIL. He said he will give each country a chance to take up an assignment, with the goal that this will increase participation in the fight.
The defense secretary noted that the U.S. is not looking to substitute U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria for local forces at this point but instead wants to enable the local forces to be able to keep the Islamic State from reviving after it is defeated.
“We know what it’s like when you don’t have that force to sustain defeat and so our strategic approach is to engage capable motivators and local forces,” he said. “They’re hard to find but they do exist.”
While previewing the proposed $582.7 billion defense budget for fiscal 2017, Carter said the Department of Defense will enhance its space and cyberspace programs while ensuring superior strength in traditional air, land and sea against China and Russia.
“We’re not waiting to invest until threats are fully realized, we’re investing now to stay ahead,” he said. “Of course, pioneering and dominating technological frontiers is just one way that our budget (helps prepare) for the future.”