Remarks With U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi After Their Meeting
Secretary of State
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: Good afternoon. The recent terrible events in Paris have reminded us that the battle against ISIL is not confined within the borders of Iraq and Syria and that this poisonous ideology threatens our own citizens and the citizens of our allies.
Today, 21 key members of the global coalition met in London to review and discuss our efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL not just through military force, but by addressing the underlying narrative of the organization, its financing, its flow of foreign fighters, and by reasserting our commitment to Iraq. In total, over 60 countries have signed up to the global coalition, showing the international will and commitment to combat this threat.
On the military track, coalition airstrikes have helped to halt ISIL’s advance, and we’ve had an update today from General Allen on the work to rebuild, re-equip, and retrain the Iraqi Security Forces, allowing them in due course to push ISIL back and reassert Iraqi sovereignty over all the territory of Iraq. Beyond our military action, we reviewed how we’re doing in our efforts against ISIL’s finances and in countering their twisted narrative, how effectively we are delivering our efforts against the flow of foreign fighters arriving to fight in their ranks. And in each case, we talked about what more we can do together to achieve our objectives in these areas. We reviewed, too, how we can offer support to those who are most affected by the humanitarian crisis that the rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria has brought about across the region.
Today’s meeting confirmed the determination of our broad and united coalition to defeat not only ISIL, but also the ideology that underlies it, and not just in Iraq and Syria, but wherever it rears its head. We recognize that political progress in both Iraq and Syria will be vital in ultimately defeating ISIL in those countries, and Prime Minister Abadi updated the meeting on progress to date and the significant challenges remaining. We congratulated him on the progress that has been made in Iraq in the hundred or so days since he formed his government and reaffirmed our support for what he is doing.
Most importantly, we all confirmed our commitment to the struggle, however long it takes and wherever it leads us, to defeating the scourge of violent Islamist extremism. Thank you. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER AL-ABADI: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. I think we are here to strengthen the international coalition against Daesh and the terrorist organizations. I’m personally here to get more support from our partners, and I’m very glad I have heard a lot of commitment from our partners to support Iraq in its fight against Daesh. This is quite important for the Iraqi people and very important for our military.
We have – in the last month, I have seen an increase in the air campaign against Daesh positions in terms of number and effectiveness, and many countries take part in this program and in this campaign in the reconnaissance and in the actual bombing of Daesh targets. We have seen an increase in delivering of arms and munitions – thank you very much for our partners on this – and we have seen a program of training of our armed forces. This program has started end of last year. There has been a lost art for this training, but eventually, there was such a program, and it’s very successful, and we are happy with it.
We wanted to see a commitment from our coalition partners, international coalition, to support and stand with Iraq, and this is forthcoming. I think it was very useful, very frank, and very open meeting today. We have discussed a lot of issues which is standing in our way to stamp out Daesh. Iraqi forces are achieving a lot of progress on the ground, and the Government of Iraq has been reaching out to all political and communities inside Iraq and to the region. I think we have established now a very successful network and cooperation with the regional powers, neighboring countries of Iraq and in the region and inside Iraq. And this is very important to fight Daesh. We cannot fight Daesh without this progress. And the international coalition, which we attended today, will strengthen our resolution to fight Daesh.
Another issue, which is being discussed today, is the fiscal problem for Iraq. You know oil prices have dropped to about 40 percent of their level last year. Iraqi economy and budget relies 85 percent on oil, and this has been disastrous for us. I cannot stress this anymore, and we explained this to our partners in the coalition, and I think there is – there will be a program to stand with Iraq in their crisis. We don’t want to see a reverse of our military victory due to our budget and fiscal problems, and we have been assured that every member of this coalition will stand with Iraq in its fight against Daesh.
Daesh is a terrorist organization. It knows no race, no religion, no region. It spares nobody, so everybody must be facing Daesh. Thank you. Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Foreign Secretary Hammond and Prime Minister Abadi, thank you both very much for – in your case, Mr. Prime Minister, traveling here and spending an important amount of time. And Philip, thank you for co-hosting today and providing the venue here in London and bringing everybody together, and Mr. Prime Minister, I want to thank you for your forceful, strong, and important leadership at this critical time.
I think it’s important to note that this meeting that we just took part in here today takes place in the context of the members of the global coalition to counter Daesh, having come together for the very first time as a group in Brussels. And as Foreign Secretary Hammond mentioned, in Brussels there were representatives from 60 different countries representing a very broad, worldwide range of views and of priorities. Today and then, we came together with the very same goal. We all understand that Daesh, as it is commonly known in the Arab world, is not simply a Syrian problem. It’s not an Iraqi problem. Daesh is a global problem, and it demands a coordinated, comprehensive, and enduring global response. And that’s what we came here to talk about today.
The coalition came together around the joint statement that was issued out of the meeting in Brussels, and that outlines our multiple lines of effort that we are currently engaged in – providing security assistance, strengthening the capacity of Iraq to stand on its own, protecting our homelands, disrupting the flow of foreign fighters, draining Daesh’s financial resources, providing humanitarian relief to victims, and ultimately defeating what Daesh represents, defeating Daesh as an idea, if it can be called that.
And all the coalition partners are continuing to make vital contributions to this, and we mean all 60. Whether it’s sheltering refugees, training, advising Iraqi troops on the front lines, or speaking out against Daesh’s hateful, false ideology, we appreciate the contribution of every single member, each of whom has chosen one line of effort or another.
But we also recognize the need to, as effectively as possible, be able to coordinate all of these contributions. And that’s what the small group that came here today set out to do. The small group will continue to meet on a regular basis and continue, obviously, to consult with the full 60 members of the coalition, who will meet again as a full membership. But in the meantime, we want to ensure that we are synchronized, that we are unified, that we are effective, that we are able to carry out each line of effort as rapidly and as efficiently as possible. As agreed in Brussels, we will establish an expert-level series of working groups to pool resources and expertise from coalition capitals in order to defeat Daesh as an organization. And thereby, we will combat its manpower, its resources, its recruiting, and its ideology.
The full plenary will convene again later this year in order to draw from the lessons that we have learned all around the world. And as I think many of you are aware, President Obama has invited countries to come and join in a consultation about violent extremism in Washington in the month of February, during which time we will have civil society, religious leaders, students, NGOs, others, plus government ministers, and we will have a subsequent ministerial meeting ourselves at the State Department. All of this is to try to build capacity, build efficiency – basically, just to get the job done.
Now obviously, there is a tremendous amount of work that is already underway. In recent months, we have seen, definitively, Daesh’s momentum halted in Iraq, and in some cases reversed. And while Daesh may make some announcement about some distant location where four or five people have chosen to affiliate with them, that does not represent advances in the front line of the initiative that we have begun with, which is building the capacity of Iraq to be able to defend itself. And that process is very much underway at this time. There’s a – it’s important to note that ground forces, supported by nearly 2,000 airstrikes now, have reclaimed more than 700 square kilometers from Daesh. Coalition training and advising efforts in Iraq are underway and ramping up, with the goal of ultimately raising 12 new Iraqi brigades. And this spring, we’re going to begin training for the Syrian opposition forces at camps in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar.
The fact is that, while the trajectory of this fight, as President Obama and other leaders have said from the beginning, will be neither short nor easy – that has been a consistent statement – today we are seeing important gains along all the lines of effort, and we discussed these gains in detail today, as well as the necessary steps that we have to take to build on them. I don’t think there’s any undertaking in its early months where you can’t do better and you can’t find things you can’t improve on, and that’s precisely what we talked about here today.
So let me also add that we’re not only focused on defeating Daesh and liberating the areas that are under its control in the short term, but we’re also concerned with helping Daesh’s victims to rebuild their lives once Daesh is long gone. And this is absolutely critical. These communities will need police and local governance in order to ensure that – law and order, and in order to restore ties with the central government. They’ll need provisions for basic resources like electricity and water. And those who’ve suffered unimaginable horrors under Daesh, especially women and girls, will continue to need the kind of humanitarian relief that countries around the world have generously been providing since this crisis began. To that end, we commend the recent UN announcement of a multi-partner recover and stabilization fund, and this fund will support Iraqi-led stabilization efforts in communities that have been rescued from Daesh’s grip. And for many, it will self – it will literally serve as the bridge between horror and hope.
As President Obama said in his State of the Union Address a couple of days ago, this effort will take time, it will require focus, but we will succeed. Tomorrow, I will travel to Davos, Switzerland. I think the prime minister is going today; I think we’re speaking almost one right after the other. And at that time, I’ll speak in greater detail about our global efforts, and global efforts that are necessary to prevent and combat violent extremism.
But for now let me just underscore this: This is a huge task with no shortcuts. We’ve made progress in coordinating our efforts today, and we will continue to make progress, including at the summit on opposing extremist violence that I talked about a moment ago that the President – President Obama will convene.
After five months of close collaboration on this effort, I can tell you that Prime Minister Abadi, Foreign Secretary Hammond, and all of the coalition partners here today fully recognize how important this moment is, and restated their commitment to see this through. And we know that we have to get it right, and that is precisely what the subject matter of this meeting most focused on.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Foreign Secretary, the prime minister spoke this morning about doing everything possible to prevent foreign fighters traveling to the region and causing mayhem. What actually can be done to prevent that and to prevent them returning to the UK?
And Secretary of State Kerry, how much of a source of frustration is it that British jets aren’t able to take part in the military strikes against Daesh targets in Syria?
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: Okay. In dealing with potential foreign fighters from the UK, it’s a multilayered approach. We need to identify people who are at risk of trying to go to Syria and Iraq, intervene as early as we possibly can, divert them away from that course of action. If they continue down that path, we need to make sure we have the powers and the capability, which increasingly we do, to intercept them at the point of exit. We need to work with our partners in Europe, because many of these people are transiting through points in Europe.
I was in Bucharest and Sofia last week, both cities which are used as transit points between here and Turkey. So we have an additional point of interception there, and we’re working very closely with the security services in the countries that are used as transit routes. And then, again, working with the Turks, who – despite the Turkish prime minister’s rather self-effacing remarks this morning, Turkey is doing a fantastic job of intercepting people who are seeking to get across the border into Syria. Of course, the Turkish prime minister was absolutely right: They cannot be 100 percent successful because of the nature of that border, but they are doing a great job.
So we have a multilayered approach, and the same operates exactly in reverse in terms of people seeking to return here. And the final bit of the jigsaw is to make sure that we have all the powers necessary both at national level and in European Union law, in terms of passenger name record data, to make sure that we can intercept these people and keep the country as safe as we possibly can.
SECRETARY KERRY: We have five Arab nations flying with us in an unprecedented, in fact even historic definition of this particular coalition. And I can tell you that we have not been affected in one iota by any decision any other country has made, which we fully respect. And there has been zero frustration expressed or felt, and there is none existent with respect to our ability to carry out this mission. It’s being carried out fully and competently, and each country makes its own decision, which we respect, as to how they choose to be engaged.
MODERATOR: Great. The next question is from Michael Gordon of The New York Times. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: So there have been concerns that – among experts that the goal of mounting a major spring offensive in Iraq against the Islamic State has been slipping, including the effort to reclaim Mosul. And Prime Minister Abadi, you yourself have been quoted in recent days as saying that you hope the international community would provide more assistance to Iraq more quickly. A question to you, Prime Minister, and to you, Mr. Secretary – and Foreign Secretary: What concrete steps – not statements of support, but concrete steps have you agreed on here today to expedite the military campaign against the Islamic State and within its sanctuary in Syria? And also, Prime Minister, you mentioned the concern about the decline in oil price and the effect it’s having on your economy, and you said that there was an appreciation that some help would be provided to Iraq. What specifically is the coalition going to do to help you in this regard?
PRIME MINISTER AL-ABADI: So one choice is that delivery of munition and armaments can have deferred payment. Iraq is not poor country. But as a problem – we have fiscal problems, is going to be fixed probably in a couple of years’ time, when the oil prices goes up. So I think one thing we are asking for is deferred payment. That’s one solution. And I think our coalition partner has been very receptive of this.
Secondly, I think last week we have received a very good shipment of armament, which is free of charge from our coalition partners. I think U.S. Air Force has transported these shipments to Iraq. It was a contribution from different European countries to help Iraq, which is – this very good progress. I think I’ve asked before for more support, and I think my call didn’t go unnoticed.
SECRETARY KERRY: Let me assure you that this effort is not going to be deterred or diminished or defeated by virtue of the fact that we’re not going to get the supplies and the ammunition necessary to carry it out. We’re in the five-month stage of gearing up. A lot of things happen according to budget. We’ve just delivered 250 MRAPs, which are a very significant effort, in addition to other things. The prime minister just mentioned the question of ammunition. And training is ramping up every single day at this point in time. There are some very significant number – I’m not going to say the number publicly – of M-16s that are coming in very, very shortly, which will enable us to take AK-47 Kalashnikovs and replace them, and then put those in the hands of other fighters as the brigades come online. So there is a pipeline here, and it is working.
But I will tell you that today, as a group, we all unanimously express support for Prime Minister Abadi’s efforts to reach out to Kurds and Sunnis and all Iraqis in an effort to underscore the importance of a unified government and a unified Iraq that is moving in an inclusive way to deal with the challenges it faces. We made a recommitment to making certain that these supplies and training move as fast as possible, and I talked personally with General Allen about that. It was agreed that a greater focus needs to be placed on the counter-messaging effort, particularly in the region. And we will have more to say to that in the next few days, with specific steps that will be taken to accomplish it. And there was a unanimous agreement on the importance of the partner and stabilization fund to rebuild and provide relief to areas that are destroyed by Daesh.
So we were specific and we talked about various challenges the prime minister faces and the ways in which he is intending to meet those challenges in the days ahead. And I think, most significantly, we all felt that it was an in-depth, detailed, real discussion in which people came out satisfied that they understood the road ahead, and everybody left there with some homework to do.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: I think last summer the international community pledged that it would stand behind Iraq, so long as we had in Iraq a government that was committed to an inclusive program that was going to provide a sustainable future for Iraq. What we have been able to confirm to Prime Minister al-Abadi today is that we are all comfortable that he is delivering on Iraq’s commitments. And so long as Iraq delivers on its commitments, the international community will stand behind it.
The point of these kind of meetings, smaller group meetings, is to be able to have a frank and private exchange about what is working well, where there are areas where more needs to be done. Prime Minister al-Abadi has said very clearly where he has additional requests of us; he’s mentioned some of them today. We’ve heard very clearly what he has said. We have in General John Allen a conduit of information flow and military understanding between the coalition and the Iraqi Government, and I think the arrangements are working very well. Mr. Secretary Kerry said, this campaign is not going to fail for the want of some guns or some bullets in the hands of the Iraqi Security Forces.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Mr. Secretary, this is only your second meeting for the coalition against ISIS after Brussels. What mechanisms have you put in place, and what assurances have you given Prime Minister Abadi so that this coalition doesn’t turn into a Friends of Syria-type coalition where a lot of talking take place with little results on the ground?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me – meeting as an entire group is not the measure of what we’re doing. We – sometimes people can meet too often, as a matter of fact. The measure here is: What are we getting done? And it is important, we think, that we meet when it’s necessary to meet. We thought it was necessary to meet now to take stock of where we have been in the last months. But as I said a moment ago, when we met in Brussels in September we had been in existence for two months, and 60 nations came together.
Now since then, almost 2,000 strikes in Syria and Iraq have had a high degree of precision and accuracy, and they have definitively put Daesh on the defensive where those strikes take place and in that particular region. We are taking out Daesh’s fighters in the thousands thus far – single digits, but thousands. Their commanders – 50 percent of the top command has been eliminated. Hundreds of vehicles and tanks, which they captured, have been destroyed. Nearly 200 oil and gas facilities that they were using have been eliminated from their capacity to sell and get revenue from them – the – that’s the infrastructure that funds their terror – as well as more than a thousand fighting positions, checkpoints, building, barracks in Iraq and in Syria.
Foreign fighter networks have been broken up in Austria, in Malaysia, in Kosovo, in other countries. Foreign fighters have been prosecuted in Germany, Australia, the UK. Saudi Arabia has now issued formal decrees criminalizing Daesh, and it’s broken up Daesh cells with links to Syria.
We are destroying ISIL’s refining capacity, which destroys their revenue. We’re denying it revenue from oil trade. There are growing signs that our initiatives are, in fact, restricting Daesh’s operations, including reports from Mosul that fighters are not getting paid or they’re receiving far less than what the Daesh leadership had promised them. You saw that a whole large group of people tried to defect from Daesh because they didn’t think the promises were being fulfilled and they didn’t like their lives, and they were killed for wanting to leave.
The U.S. has provided over 208 million for humanitarian response in Iraq, over three billion for Syria in support of the UN-led humanitarian response in the last four years. And we’ve seen fatwas now issued by top religious leaders in Egypt and Saudi Arabia declaring Daesh a direct threat to Islam. And following the countering of a Daesh conference that was held by Kuwait in November, we’re working with coalition partners to establish operation rooms to combat their social media presence and be able to message in real time.
So there is an enormous amount – and that’s just scratching the surface of what is going on. There is an enormous amount that is happening, and that is all of it happening in a matter of months. And the purpose of meeting today is to take stock of those things, and we have decided there are things we can do more of. We can do better on the cutting off financing. We can do better on the messaging. We can do better with respect to the supplies and other things. So it was a very, very worthwhile afternoon – morning and afternoon, and the proof will be in the pudding. We’ll see what happens over the course of the next months.
QUESTION: Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER AL-ABADI: Just excuse me to answer this in Arabic for Arabic audience, so translation, be ready. (Via interpreter.) Iraq needs air strengths, air power, and the international coalition is providing it. And also, our forces need training, and the coalition has provided it. Certainly, we need weapons – Iraq needs weapons – and the international community has the ability to provide Iraq with the weapons it needs.
The other important thing is that the international coalition gives a message to those who stand with Daesh that they have no future and that the end of Daesh is inevitable, that Iraq is not alone, the Iraqi people are not alone, but the entire world stands with Iraq. And this is very important, and that we have noted in the past few days that there is a great increase in the support of the coalition to Iraq in the areas of training of the – this training that started at the end of the last year. There’s also delivery of weapons last week and the week before. Important weapons were delivered by the international coalition to Iraq. Third, there is a great deal of preparation, and there is increase in the number and the quality and the effectiveness of airstrikes against Daesh sites. There is great coordination between those strikes and our security and military forces on the ground, and this is very important.
Another matter is the good relations now we have with our Arab neighbors and other neighbors around the world, and there is a new atmosphere in this cooperation, which was one of the tasks or the challenges – the difficult challenges that Iraq faced, which was the bad relations with – the difficult relations with some of these countries. And many of these countries now – even all countries – consider that the threat of Daesh is a threat to all of them, not only Iraq, and the international coalition that stands with Iraq feels that Daesh is a threat to all countries when we’ve witnessed this in the latest strikes around the world. Thank you.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: Thank you. Thank you.