WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary James Mattis said the united effort of NATO nations in combating terrorism is critical to defeating it now and ensuring it stays defeated.
“We will be unrelenting in our effort, working with like-minded nations. We will target ISIS around the world, for this remains a global fight,” Mattis said at the conclusion of a summit of NATO defense ministers. “We will continue to carry out operations necessary to crush the physical caliphate and prevent a resurgence of ISIS.”
Mattis said threats to NATO nations specifically, and the world at large, remain ongoing — raging from terrorist groups such as ISIS to aggression from actual nations like Russia. He said the collective effort of NATO in Afghanistan and a coalition of nations fighting ISIS in Iraq is the difference in winning the battles against such threats.
He also praised NATO allies for upping their financial investments into NATO — a longtime request of the U.S. — as well as joining in the fight with boots on the ground.
“Now, in 2018, eight nations are already meeting the 2 percent (of gross domestic product in defense spending) pledge benchmark, and I salute the 15 allies who are on track to reach 2 percent by 2024,” Mattis said. “I appreciate the troops and the leadership these nations provide to support NATO’s Kosovo, Afghanistan forward presence and other missions.”
Mattis met with NATO ministers in Brussels over the weekend and his remarks are collected by a small group of reporters traveling with him, known as a pool. Those remarks are shared with other journalists who are part of the larger pool, including Talk Media News.
While declaring the need for vigilance against all terrorist groups, Mattis keyed in on the battle against ISIS.
“In concert with the new Iraqi government, we will capitalize on Iraq’s success and reinforce their long-term counterterrorism efforts,” Mattis said. “We cannot allow ISIS or any other terrorist group to terrorize the people of this region, again driving thousands of refugees from their homes and into Europe and elsewhere.”
He praised NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s leadership, saying he has built NATO into “a credible deterrent to any who would threaten our democracies,” such as Russia.
“We could move our forces across Europe today,” Mattis said. “We’re talking about making this the norm rather than a response in a crisis situation.”
Mattis also spent some of his time assuaging allies not to let differences over trade cast clouds over the military alliance and its unity and successes.
Mattis told reporters that it is premature to call the differences a trade war and that he does not expect it to have an impact on security relations with U.S. allies. “Things may be a little rocky,” he said, but the trade issues “will not throw us off.”