By John D. Banusiewicz
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, July 24, 2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter met with service members in Baghdad yesterday, thanking them for their sacrifices and underscoring the role they play in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists.
Carter noted that he was in the midst of a weeklong trip in the Middle East region and that he had been meeting with "important people" in several regional capitals.
“You're the most important people to me,” he said, “and I just want you to know that. … You are why I wake up every morning. You're what I'm thinking about every day. It's you –- you [and] your families.”
The secretary told the service members that he appreciates them serving in Iraq while their families wait back home.
Contributing to World Security
“I don't take it for granted that it's uncomfortable here, that you put yourself in harm's way, and that you're doing that for your fellow citizens of the United States,” he said. “Because our first job is to protect our people and our country, but also, because of who we are, we contribute to the security of the wider world. And it is a big world out there, and we have responsibilities all over it.”
Because it is the world’s most powerful and influential power, Carter said, other nations want to work with the United States -- “because they like us, because they like who we are and what we stand for and the way we conduct ourselves.”
That's a compliment, he added, but it's also a big burden.
“The Middle East is an important place in the world,” he said. “It's not the only important place in the world, but it's a very important one to our country and to world security, and Iraq is an important part of the Middle East.”
The campaign against ISIL will succeed, Carter said, “because civilization always wins over barbarism.”
If beating ISIL once was all there was to it, he told the U.S. service members, they could do it. But that’s not the issue, he said.
Keeping ISIL Beaten
“The defeat we need to give to [ISIL] is a lasting defeat -- a defeat that sticks,” he said. “And that can only be done if we're supporting the people who live here. … To keep them beaten requires the capable, motivated forces here in Iraq, and that requires the support of the Iraqi people.”
The United States can help, enable, train, equip and support the Iraqi security forces in beating ISIL, Carter said.
“But we can't substitute for them. … We can't keep them beaten,” he added. “Only the people who live here can keep them beaten.”
The campaign is headed in the right direction, Carter said. “If it were only up to us, it would be more straightforward, but it's not,” he added. “We have to work with, by, and through them. And that's what we're doing. And that takes some time, and it takes some effort, but that's what it takes to make victories stick when we have victory.”
The secretary told the troops he had spoken with Iraqi leaders earlier in the day, and they understand that and are committed to it.
“So we hope that they can deliver that,” Carter said.