By Cheryl Pellerin
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter is closely monitoring the aftermath of brutal terrorist attacks over the past few days in Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters Tuesday.
Responsibility for attacks that according to media reports killed 42 people in Turkey, at least 200 in Baghdad, nearly 30 in Bangladesh and four in Saudi Arabia has not been established in all cases, but Cook said speculation has centered on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
“These tragic events once again highlight why it’s so important to accelerate the coalition campaign to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat in Iraq and Syria, to further limit the group’s ability to carry out attacks in other parts of the world and to do all we can to prevent the spread of its hateful ideology,” the spokesman said.
The attacks occur as support for local forces from the counter-ISIL coalition erodes ISIL’s self-styled caliphate, recapturing key terrain that includes major cities, infrastructure and economic nodes finance ISIL activity and fuel its claims of legitimacy, Cook said.
Making Progress Against ISIL
Today, he added, ISIL has lost Fallujah, the city from which they controlled much of western Iraq and launched attacks into Baghdad, and Iraqi security forces are clearing key terrain on the way to Mosul.
Manbij — the final waystation between ISIL’s so-called Syrian capital of Raqqa and the Turkish border — is surrounded by a tightening cordon of Arab troops, Cook said.
“The Iraqi security forces and Prime Minister [Haider al-] Abadi have been clear about the need to conduct operations in Fallujah and to continue the push to the north, while at the same time trying to maintain security in Baghdad,” he said.
“We’re confident, working closely with the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi government, that we can continue to pressure ISIL on multiple fronts at the same time,” Cook added.
ISIL affiliates in places such as Libya, Afghanistan and East Africa also are under intensifying pressure, he said.
“This is notable and important progress from a year ago or six months ago, but as the tragedies in Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq and Saudi Arabia demonstrate, there is still much work left to do,” Cook told reporters.
Part of the Strategy
The military defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria is necessary to protect innocent lives from ISIL’s brutality but it’s just one part of a strategy that calls for “defeating ISIL in its parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, targeting its cancerous spread elsewhere in the world and strengthening security in the homeland against attacks planned or inspired by ISIL,” he said.
This week, representatives from 28 nations will convene at the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland’s capital city. President Barack Obama, Carter and the other senior leaders will discuss a range of topics, including how to strengthen the campaign against ISIL, he added.
Later this month, Carter will convene fellow defense ministers from counter-ISIL coalition nations in Washington to assess the campaign’s progress and how to further accelerate it, Cook said.
“Every day,” he added, “the brave men and women of our armed forces are working alongside partner forces to end ISIL’s ability to threaten innocent lives in the Middle East and around the world. And we remain committed to that mission.”
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