Remarks With U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond Before the Counter-ISIL Coalition Small Group Meeting
Secretary of State
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: Good morning, everybody. I’m delighted to welcome Secretary Kerry and our other partners here today for this important coalition steering group meeting. It’s a remarkable achievement to have brought together over 60 nations in the coalition in the fight against ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
What we are doing with this meeting is bringing together the key members of that coalition, those that are most actively engaged in the front line, to take stock of our achievements over the last four or five months, to hear from General John Allen about what is happening on the ground, and to plan the next steps of this campaign which we’ve all recognized will be a long haul to restoring full Iraqi Government control of all the territory of Iraq.
So I look forward to a very constructive discussion today with our colleagues, and we hope this will be the first of a series of regular meetings to take stock and provide command and control of the overall coalition campaign. Thank you. John.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I want to thank Secretary Hammond and Great Britain for hosting us here today, and I’m pleased to co-host with him this important meeting of the most engaged, most involved leading-edge countries, though we are critically dependent on all 60-plus nations that are engaged in this effort.
But as we have put this together now in a matter of a few months, we have gone from zero at the end of September to now, in January, in our fourth month, having stopped ISIL’s advance in Iraq, having negated their resources, their capacity to move foreign fighters, to a significant degree, and changed their operations as a result of what we’ve been able to do. We still have a lot of work to do, and the purpose of coming here is to bring everybody’s best advice, everybody’s thoughts about where there may be weaknesses, everybody’s thoughts about things we can do better, put that together, improve our own performance and operation, and lay down the strategy for the days ahead.
And as Philip said, we will make this now a regular meeting almost on a monthly basis, not at the ministerial level. Ministers will meet as necessary. But it is important to coordinate. We have a tremendous amount of work to do.
I want to thank particularly our friends here in London. Prime Minister Cameron and the President, President Obama, met a few days ago in Washington. I think everybody sensed the power of our friendship and our cooperative partnership which has never been more important on so many different fronts as it is today, and that’s why we thought it was important to come together here to follow up as effectively as possible.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I don’t think people should be dismayed. I think they should be encouraged, in fact. Police forces, law enforcement community, intelligence community of many countries have come together in an incredibly effective way to fight against an insidious, long-time planning process that has been in place. And in a sense, we’re flushing them out. These sleeper cells have been there for years now. Many of these plans have been in place for a long period of time, long preceding what we’ve been doing with respect to ISIS.
But the truth is that these groups are planning and have been planning for a long period of time, going back to Usama bin Ladin and 9/11 in New York, to attack Western interests and to go after anybody that they disagree with. Their goal is to suppress and to take over and to expand a very nihilistic, unbelievably oppressive sense of how people ought to live. And we’ve seen them carried out in the most egregiously horrendous fashion with public beheadings. They’re now threatening to Japanese hostages.
I think this is a challenge for all of us. It’s a challenge of our time. And we need to step up and lead and be strong and be clear about what is at stake, and that’s exactly why we’re here and meet today.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: I think if I could just add to that, this conference is not just about the military operation in Iraq. It’s about the other strands of this campaign as well. And we’re very clear that undermining the narrative of ISIL, interdicting the flow of foreign fighters, stopping the flow of financial funding to ISIL, is as important as the military campaign itself. So I think we – there are reasons to be optimistic about the military campaign. As John said, we’ve stopped ISIL’s advance. We’re now rebuilding the Iraqi forces. We always said this would take time, but they will be capable and ready at some point to push back against ISIL. And in the meantime, we have to continue the work to undermine ISIL’s message in our own countries and to protect our own homelands with security measures both here and across the continent, in collaboration with our partners.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Appreciate it. Thanks very much.