Remarks by Secretary Carter Following his Meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi in Baghdad, Iraq
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Yes, I can hear.
PRIME MINISTER HAIDER AL-ABADI: Peace be with you; I would like to welcome Mr. US Secretary of Defense here in Baghdad, especially with the remarkable successes that have been achieved by our forces on the ground in Mosul. As the forces are advancing much better than the plan and there is utmost courage with very high morale. The enemy, Daesh yesterday unfortunately set fire to Mishraq Sulfur Plant, but I assure the citizens that today the civilian agencies in addition to the help of security forces were able to extinguish the fire completely.
Also the enemy is trying, as we have alerted security forces and citizens to be vigilant, because the enemy will try to carry out terrorist acts to divert attention from victories achieved by us in Mosul and the collapse of enemy in Mosul and as the Kirkuk operation yesterday was one of these attempts. This is not a military breach, it is not Da’esh’s military force, it was terrorist cells of Da’esh which breached some of the dividing sides or the city limits inside Kirkuk, they controlled some buildings and killed citizens and now almost all the terrorist groups that entered Kirkuk have been eliminated, and yes, there is only one site left that is being cleared completely now, the terrorist cell leader who carried out this cowardly act was arrested and most of the elements who committed this cowardly act were eliminated.
The important thing is that the forces that are fighting in the ground are Iraqi security forces; the International Coalition is helping the Iraqi security forces in the areas of armament, and equipment and in providing air cover to those forces, now the operation is moving perfectly, there are no foreign forces fighting on the Iraqi soil besides the Iraqi security forces, there isn’t any force, neither from neighboring countries nor from regional countries or any country in the world, we always like to emphasized on this issue which is; there are no foreign combat troops on the Iraqi soil, forces that are fighting on the ground are Iraqi security forces only.
Mr. Defense Secretary, yesterday we heard some statements that there is maybe kind of an agreement between the Iraqi side and the Turkish side regarding Turkey’s role in the liberation of Mosul. Five days ago an official Turkish delegation came to Baghdad and they were welcomed by the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Iraqi Security Forces, they had an almost 5 hours discussion. They presented their ideas and they presented their proposals, and the Iraqi side also presented their proposals, but in fact we didn’t consider them adequate with respect to withdrawal of the Turkish forces from Iraq and respecting Iraqi sovereignty. The Turkish side confirmed to respect Iraq’s sovereignty. We would like to hear from the Turkish side announcing openly in the media that they respect Iraq’s sovereignty. We are keen to have a good relation with Turkey and we are also keen to make sure that there will be no clashed between Iraq and Turkey, because Turkey is a neighboring country and we are keen to continuing working with Turkey, but the battle of Mosul is Iraq's battle which is fought and planned and carried out by Iraqis, therefore, I know that the Turks want to participate in this battle.
We tell them thank you, but this will be settled by the Iraqis and the Iraqis will liberate Mosul and the rest of the areas, thank God that Iraqis: Kurds, Arabs, Shiites, Sunnis, Turkmens, Christians and Yezidis are all fighting together to liberate Mosul. We don’t have any problem, if we will need any help, we will ask for it God willing, from Turkey and the rest of the neighboring countries.
And for what we are doing currently, the support of the international community for us in our fight against Da’esh is an important issue, because God willing we will eliminate Da’esh militarily in Iraq, but Da’esh’s threat will remain in Syria and Da’esh’s terrorism threat will exist not only threatening Iraq, but the whole region and the whole world. We also have a common goal, there are common interests between Iraq and the United States of America, and between Iraq and international community to combatting terrorism…Thank you very much.
SEC. CARTER: Well, thank you, prime minister.
It's great to see you again and to be here and particularly to be able to congratulate you on the commencement of the operation to take back Iraqi control of Mosul.
We began talking about that many months ago and your armed forces made a plan to do so and the coalition that the United States leads has been supporting you in that effort and now it has reached this very important phase, where we begin to support you in, as you said, in the campaign against Mosul.
And once again, I congratulate you. I congratulate you on your leadership, the performance of the Iraqi Security Forces, on Iraqi unity. I have spoken to President Barzani about this, as well, and -- and commended him because he, too, has worked with the Iraqi Security Forces, as we had all agreed, and that's been successful.
I also reaffirmed to you today the vital importance of every country operating with full respect for Iraqi sovereignty. That is the principle upon which the international coalition and everything that it does to -- in this country is 100 percent committed to. And I wanted to say that I reaffirmed that to you.
I also have to say that I -- as a -- the leader of the Defense Department of the United States express my regrets for the losses that Iraqi Security Forces have taken. I know that you have and we all feel that in ourselves. We had the loss of an American service member here, a Navy chief petty officer and -- but this is a fight that we must fight. And -- but it comes with a price of heavy hearts for the families of the fallen and that's true for Iraqi, as well as for ours.
I also, as you do, are thinking beyond the Mosul campaign to reconstruction, stabilization and the assistance that the United States and the other coalition can -- can provide and must provide. In that regard, you and I had the opportunity to discuss that, as well as the continuing need to fight terrorism, even after the major cities of Iraq, you have -- reestablished control over them.
We talked about our next steps, therefore, in those regards, and in the stabilization of Iraq and our continued willingness to lead a coalition in support of the consolidation of Iraqi government control over Iraqi territory in the territory, of course, always subject to your approval for everything we do here.
So the main thing is congratulations on the commencement of the Mosul campaign. And it's very -- it's good to see you and to be able to say that to you after all these months of working together.
STAFF: Thank you.
STAFF: Thank you so much.