Only days after taking office, Carter convened the extraordinary meeting of more than two dozen senior military officers, ambassadors and intelligence officials at the sprawling US Army base of Camp Arifjan. Speaking to American troops at the base before the talks, Carter said that the US-led coalition was pressing the IS group very ably from Kuwait and elsewhere.
“And we will deliver lasting defeat, make no doubt,” he said. Carter said that he had called the meeting of commanders and officials to sit around one table and talk about all of the dimensions of this campaign. The discussion would look not just at the fight in Iraq and Syria, where US and coalition aircraft have carried out daily bombing raids, but the wider regional struggle against Islamic State.
“Islamic State militant is not just a threat to Iraq and Syria. It's a larger threat to the region,” said Carter, using an alternative acronym for the extremist group. Asked by one soldier if Washington would consider sending ground troops to take on the militants, Carter said any additional military action would have to be weighed carefully. “We'll do what it takes to prevail,” he added.
President Barack Obama, anxious to avoid a drawn-out ground war, has backed an air campaign but ruled out deploying boots on the ground. The talks follow more than six months of US-led air strikes that have halted Islamic State advances for the most part and enabled Kurdish forces to recapture some ground in northern Iraq and the Syrian town of Kobane on the border with Turkey.
But the militants still hold large swathes of territory seized last year across Iraq and Syria and appear to have spread their influence to Libya. In recent days, Islamic State has claimed responsibility for bombings in Libya as well as the murder of 21 Coptic Christians, most of them Egyptian.