Fort Campbell, KY. – Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter spoke to troops of the 101st Airborne Division about his broad plans to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Wednesday. Carter reinforced that the overall mission will be supported by other nations which he will be meeting with in Paris next week.
“Each of these nations has a significant stake in completing the destruction of this evil organization, and we must include all of the capabilities they can bring to the field,” he said.
Carter explained the “Special Expeditionary Targeting Force,” whose existence he announced early last month, will lead the fight against ISIS leaders. The force is now in place and preparing to go after ISIS commanders by killing or capturing them wherever they find them.
The 101st Airborne division, actually an air assault division, was told its mission will be to train and support the Iraqis, sidelining them from any direct combat with ISIS.
1,300 soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division are deploying to Iraq this spring and about 500 from the headquarters group in February. They will be replacing the soldiers from the 1st BCT, 10th Mountain Division. The 101st Airborne soldiers from 2nd Brigade have already completed their rotation at the Joint Readiness Training center at Fort Polk, which is standard for a brigade deploying to a combat zone.
Carter went on to lay out a plan to retake the city of Mosul in Iraq. He stated “Frankly, I know the 101st has taken Mosul before and I know you could do it again…but then it would likely become our fight and our fight alone.”
The Secretary of Defense made it clear that the 200 or so operators in the Middle East will be the only U.S. force directly engaging ISIS in ground combat.
Carter said, “American special operators, as you well know, bring a unique set of capabilities that make them force multipliers… even with a small number of these highly trained operators the full might of America’s air power, intelligence, logistics, and know-how can be relentlessly focused on the enemy.”
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