Defense Secretary Ash Carter: Israel’s security always a top priority

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a congressional committee that Israel’s security will “always be one of my top priorities.”

Carter testified Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee, delivering a statement on U.S. policy and strategy in the Middle East.

The core interests of the United States, Carter said, “drive our actions to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon” and “dictate that we not let up until we have destroyed ISIL and al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists throughout the region that pose dangers to the homeland, to friends, and to allies.”

“That’s why we’re assuring Israel’s continued qualitative military edge, and why we’re working with our Gulf partners to make them more capable of defending themselves against external aggression,” he said.

Carter focused his testimony on the U.S.-led coalition’s strategy to defeat ISIL, also known as the Islamic State and ISIS, saying it “must be and will be dealt a lasting defeat.” He noted some of the lines of defense against ISIS being taken by the Defense Department: strengthening inclusive governance; denying ISIS safe haven; enhancing intelligence gathering; and disrupting financing.

He said the U.S.-led campaign of airstrikes against ISIS In Iraq and Syria was “buying critical time and space” to carry out the department’s second line of effort: “developing the capacity and capabilities of legitimate local ground forces.”

Carter also told the committee that the Department of Defense has not received as many Iraqi recruits to train to fight against ISIS as it had envisioned. The department has received about 7,000 recruits to train at four sites; it had expected 24,000.

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