NPR logo

Defense Secretary Carter: 'We Need To Accelerate The Defeat Of ISIL'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/464811031/464811032" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Defense Secretary Carter: 'We Need To Accelerate The Defeat Of ISIL'

National Security

Defense Secretary Carter: 'We Need To Accelerate The Defeat Of ISIL'

Defense Secretary Carter: 'We Need To Accelerate The Defeat Of ISIL'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/464811031/464811032" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Defense Secretary Ash Carter leaves a news conference at the Pentagon on Thursday. In an interview with NPR, Carter said a top priority was to drive the Islamic State out of its headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, and from Mosul, Iraq, that country's second largest city. Cliff Owen/AP hide caption

toggle caption Cliff Owen/AP

Defense Secretary Ash Carter leaves a news conference at the Pentagon on Thursday. In an interview with NPR, Carter said a top priority was to drive the Islamic State out of its headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, and from Mosul, Iraq, that country's second largest city.

Cliff Owen/AP

Defense Secretary Ash Carter says he's hoping this year to drive the Islamic State out of the two largest and most important cities in its self-proclaimed caliphate, Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

In an interview with NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, Carter offered a broad assessment of U.S. military operations, saying the U.S. was winding down in Afghanistan, while looking to step up the tempo in Syria and Iraq.

"In Syria and Iraq, we're looking to do more because we need to accelerate the defeat of ISIL," Carter said in reference to the Islamic State. "The president has instructed us to do that and has indicated that he's willing to consider proposals to do more and we've given him proposals to do more and he's granted every proposal we've asked."

Carter did not provide specifics, though the U.S. effort has centered almost entirely on an air campaign against the Islamic State since it was launched in the summer of 2014.

While the extremist group has lost some ground in both Syria and Iraq, it remains in firm control of Raqqa, in north central Syria, which effectively serves as its headquarters, and Mosul, in northern Iraq, that country's second largest city.

The Islamic State says "they have the state established in Syria and Iraq," Carter said. "That's why it's so important for us to take Raqqa away from ISIL and restore it to the people who live there, and to take Mosul in Iraq."

Driving ISIL out would have great significance "so it's plain to all there's not going to be a country called the Islamic State with that kind of ideology, and that's the first step toward defeating them worldwide," Carter said.

Asked if he wanted to do this in 2016, Carter said:

"We certainly want to do that and we're formulating our plans and gathering capabilities in order to do that. We want to retake Raqqa, retake Mosul, and destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria as soon as possible."

With the U.S. in its 15th year of war, and with the Obama administration in its final year, Carter was asked whether he would be handing over to his successor a country in a permanent state of war. Carter said:

"With respect to Afghanistan ... we're winding down our involvement there and successfully transferring security to the Afghan security forces. We obviously have enormous work to do in Syria and Iraq. Is there any shortage of challenges in the future? No, but we're up to it and basically optimistic about our security future.

I think it means a state of permanent vigilance, at a minimum, and that's why we need to keep our force at the cutting edge and we continue to have real challenges ahead, Syria and Iraq and ISIL being just one of them."

You can hear the full interview at the audio link at the top of this page.

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.