WASHINGTON — Threats to collective security have not waned, whether from terrorism or Russia’s aggression and hybrid threats, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said at NATO headquarters in Brussels today, the Department of Defense reports.
“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. In concert with the new Iraqi government, we will capitalize on Iraq’s success and reinforce their long-term counterterrorism efforts. 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.” ~ SOD James Mattis
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS: As you know, we have just concluded our NATO Defense Ministerial, where I’m very confident that we have delivered progress on key alliance deliverables for our Heads of State Summit that goes next month here in Brussels.
This outcome will ensure the alliance is fit to fight, I believe. The outcome being what we delivered here and the discussions we had here. And thus, we’ll be better able to deter those who would attack our democracies whether with terrorism, conventional or hybrid methods.
Threats to our collective security have not waned, whether terrorism to the south or Russia’s aggression and hybrid threats to the east. In response, we have discussed everything from burden sharing — an area where the alliance has made significant progress during the last year, I must note — to various other issues on our agenda.
On the burden sharing, in 2014, it was a watershed year in NATO, when only three nations’ military spending was at 2 percent of GDP, and generally we were on downward trends with our — our defense allocations in the democracies.
By 2017, all nations had reversed the downward trend. 100 percent had reversed the downward trend by last year in defense spending, and last year we also saw the largest across-NATO increase in military spending in a quarter century.
Now in 2018, eight nations are already meeting the 2 percent pledge benchmark, and I salute the 15 allies who are on track to reach 2 percent by 2024. And Portugal, I think, just added to that, so actually we may be one — one higher.
Many allies are making investments beyond the monetary aspect of the Wales pledge, answering Secretary General Stoltenberg’s call to provide, and I quote here, “cash and capabilities and contributions,” unquote. I appreciate the troops and the leadership these nations provide to support NATO’s Kosovo, Afghanistan, forward presence and other missions.
With Secretary General Stoltenberg’s capable leadership, we also continue to improve the speed of the political decision-making. Coupled to building the NATO’s military readiness, speed of alliance consultation and decision-making are a credible deterrent to any who would threaten our democracies.
We engaged, also, our European Union partners on security cooperation. Specifically, we drilled down on military mobility. In our defense cooperation with the E.U., NATO recognizes effective deterrence and defense depends on a transparent dialogue between us. We must demonstrate the political will among us to advance our security priorities.
We also recognized that uncoordinated investments that waste resources or duplicate alliance efforts undercut our collective deterrence and defense posture, so we found further areas for cooperation and alignment of our two organizations.
In the global fight against ISIS, we will continue to carry out operations necessary to crush the physical caliphate and prevent a resurgence of ISIS-Daesh. 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.
To support these efforts, NATO is transitioning its current activity in Iraq into a sustainable training mission. In concert with the new Iraqi government, we will capitalize on Iraq’s success and reinforce their long-term counterterrorism efforts. 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.
On our Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, NATO’s steadfast commitment and the implementation of our South Asia strategy have renewed stabilization efforts, now including additional significant development funding from India. Recently, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have joined our ranks, bringing our coalition to a combined 41 nations for Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.
I should also note that Afghan’s security forces continue to improve. All six Afghan corps are deployed throughout the country, demonstrating Afghan resolve, while the Afghan government pursues a stable and inclusive political order for its people, with NATO’s support.
The level of confidence today is sufficient for President Ghani to announce a temporary cease-fire for the end of Ramadan, offering the Taliban an opportunity to bring to an end this fighting, and providing the world a clear demonstration of his government and our alliance’s commitment to peace, and an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process.
In summary, for nearly 70 years, the NATO alliance has served to uphold the values and the principles on which our democracies were founded. The American people remain committed to this alliance, and we look forward to working together to sustain our core function, which is the collective defense of our people, while fostering peace and security.
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Chris “Badger” Thomas is a Veteran who served our country as an Army Combat Medic.