Kerry’s New Anti-Islamic State Coaltion: “No boots on the ground”
Editor’s Note: At the NATO Summit in Wales, today, Secretary of State John Kerry announced a new coalition to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). His remarks, published below, represent the administration’s most extensive comments on America’s developing strategy thus far. Kerry also expressed hope that this could prove to be a model to be used against Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, and other militant groups.
Good morning, everybody. We are very appreciative for everyone who made the time to get here early (inaudible) in order to start the day with another meeting, with an extra meeting. But we thought it was really critical given the urgency of (inaudible) with respect to ISIL (inaudible) everybody together in order to try to get on the same page and talk through the margins of the NATO summit what we can do over the course of the next days.
We’re operating under a little bit of a time constraint. I promised Philip [Hammond, the UK Foreign Secretary] – and we’re very grateful, Philip, for your willingness to cohost this effort and provide facilities, and thank you, again, for the stewardship of this NATO summit. There’s a flyby taking place at 7:45 (inaudible). Okay, (inaudible). The – yeah. And we’re going to try – we’re absolutely going to (inaudible) time so that we can get up there and (inaudible).
Everybody here understands what ISIL is and the challenge that it represents. I would say to all of you, including those of you – the defense ministers who are now with us, but we had a very provocative conversation last night among the foreign ministers regarding some of the overall challenges we all face, the number of failed states and the challenges of disorder in so many countries. In many ways, I believe ISIL presents us with an opportunity. And it’s an opportunity to prove that we have the ability to come together, that our capacities for defense are not so frozen in an old model that we can’t respond to something like ISIL, that we can’t pull ourselves together and effect the coalition of clearly the willing and the capable to be able to deal with ISIL.
Contrary to what you sort of heard in the politics of our country, the President is totally committed; there is a strategy that is clear, becoming more clear by the day. And it really relies on a holistic approach to ISIL. That is to say that we need to do kinetic, we need to attack them in ways that prevent them from taking over territory, that bolster the Iraqi security forces, others in the region who are prepared to take them on, without committing troops of our own, obviously. I think that’s a redline for everybody here, no boots on the ground. Nevertheless, there are many ways in which we can train, advise, assist, and equip. There are kinetic operations we can run in direct support of Iraqi security forces.
And we’ve proven the model in the last weeks – breaking the siege on Sinjar Mountain, breaking the siege of Amirli, breaking of momentum that was moving towards Erbil, and in effect picking up enough intel to understand that the minute we hit them, these guys are not 10 feet tall. They’re not as disciplined as everybody thinks. They’re not as organized as everybody thinks. And we have the technology, we have the know-how. What we need is obviously the willpower to make certain that we are steady and stay at this.
There is no contain policy for ISIL. They’re an ambitious, avowed genocidal, territorial-grabbing, Caliphate-desiring, quasi state within a regular army. And leaving them in some capacity intact anywhere would leave a cancer in place that will ultimately come back to haunt us. So there is no issue in our minds about our determination to build this coalition, go after this. I’ll give you a quick take at what we are looking for and what we’re going to do.
When we say holistic, we mean every aspect of this group, and I think this could become conceivably a model that can help us with Boko Haram, could help us with Shabaab, with other groups if we can do this successfully. And NATO needs to think of it that way as we consider sort of our role in this new world we’re living in. We need to go after their financing mechanisms and sources, and we need to elicit broad-based support within the world of (inaudible) as well as in the world of normal banking and cover entities, businesses and so forth. Which means our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are going to need to coordinate and work together that have a clear part of an agenda within this framework.
We need a major humanitarian component that needs to be coordinated with the economic component, which will be real, to help Iraq get on its feet. We need a foreign fighter component. President Obama is going to be leading a National Security Council meeting in New York in the course of UNGA. We want – hope everybody will take part in that and help us lay down a critical agenda with respect to how we deal, all of us, with foreign fighters, which is a challenge to every country here, which is partly why we are all here.
In addition, we need an all-military aspect. Some people will not be comfortable doing kinetic. We understand that. Or some people don’t have the capacity to do kinetic. But everybody can do something. People can contribute either ammunition or weapons or technical know-how or intel capacity. People can contribute advisors. We’ve just put another 350 people on the ground in an effort to build up our advisor capacity. We’re building up our ISR platform and intel capacity. We also are building up the kinetic capacity, and that will be a clear part of this.
We very much hope that people will be as declarative as some of our friends around the table have been in order to be clear about what they’re willing to commit, because we must be able to have a plan together by the time we come to UNGA, we need to have this coalesce. We need a clarity to the strategy, and a clarity to what everybody is going to undertake.
So we’re convinced that in the days ahead we have the ability to destroy ISIL. It may take a year, it may take two years, it may take three years. But we’re determined it has to happen. There are obviously implications about Syria in this, and we can talk about that if we want in the course of the morning. But let me turn to Philip, and then I’d – after the defense secretaries have each had a chance to say something, I’d like to get our friends from France and Australia to weigh in, because we’ve already been able to have some conversations. And in that order if we can, and then we’ll just move very quickly around the room.
So Philip, thank you.
Image: U.S. Mission, Geneva