Thank you for joining us today. I want to thank Ambassador Jones in particular for his introduction and for his hospitality in welcoming us again to Iraq. It’s good to be back in Baghdad, and to be joined here with my Deputy Envoy and long-time friend to Iraq, Ambassador Brett McGurk. I doubt anyone in the U.S. Government knows Iraq better, and I am always grateful for his insight and guidance.
Since my visit to Baghdad three months ago, I’ve travelled to 15 capitals across the world. On each of these visits our Global Coalition to counter Daesh has grown stronger, and so has our collective commitment to the people of Iraq.
Among my recent travels, our first trip to Baghdad stands out in my mind, not simply because of the historic significance of this city, or because it was my first trip overseas serving as the President’s special envoy. What I remember most vividly from that day were the words of Prime Minister Dr. Haider Al Abadi. Though he had only been in office a little more than three weeks, the Prime Minister conveyed a clear and commanding vision for what a stronger, more secure Iraq required. Daesh’s defeat did not depend solely on military success, the Prime Minister told us, but on delivering security reform, advancing national reconciliation, and revitalizing Iraq’s ties with its neighbors. These were the efforts that would make success on the battlefield possible.
On that day we knew Prime Minister Abadi was a man of vision. We see clearly today he is also a man of action.
Already, Prime Minister Abadi has taken several steps to professionalize and modernize Iraq’s security services. He has made important and timely personnel changes. Iraq’s government has worked simultaneously to begin arming and training tribal fighters and to integrate these forces and other irregular elements into Iraq’s Security Forces.
And as Iraq’s government has become more representative, the nation is becoming more integrated within its region and closer to its neighbors.
We arrived here from Riyadh, where Saudi leaders recently announced plans to build an embassy in Iraq, their first in more than a quarter century. Iraqi ministers have made productive visits to Ankara, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, and Amman and in turn, we see these governments deepening and broadening their partnership with Iraq. And just a few days ago, Prime Minister Abadi and key Cabinet members, including Defense Minister Obeidi and Oil Minister Abdul-Mehdi, completed a two-day trip to Cairo.
Now that more than 60 nations have come together to join the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, Iraq can count on the support of a host of strong partners from across the world. Each has made significant investments of national prestige and resources in this nation’s future.
Iraq’s coalition partners are providing far more than military support. They are taking leading roles to stop the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, to limit Daesh’s financing, to provide humanitarian aid to its victims, and defeat Daesh where they can do incredible harm: in the virtual space and marketplace of ideas. Nations as diverse as Morocco, Germany, and Kuwait are helping to steer these efforts.
On the military side of the Coalition, 12 nations have committed to train Iraq’s Security Forces at several locations across Iraq, an effort that is now well underway. Eight Coalition partners are also participating in airstrikes over Iraq, coordinating their support with our Iraqi partners on the ground for maximum impact.
Yesterday I visited Al-Asad airbase in Anbar Province to see first-hand the progress of our cooperation there with the 7th Iraqi Division on developing security strategies, mission planning support, sharing information and intelligence, and coordinating close air support. Also at Anbar, I received a briefing from the ISF on their training and advising of local tribal forces.
As Iraq’s government has taken critical steps towards reform, the United States has stepped up our support for Iraq’s security forces. Last week, in response to requests from Iraq’s government for mine-resistant, armor protected vehicles, the United States donated 250 MRAPs. This contribution is in addition to the $500 million in small arms and ammunition we delivered to Iraq last year, and the $1.6 billion approved in December to train and equip Iraq’s security forces.
This size of the contributions from the United States and other Coalition partners reflects the scope of the challenge we face. Whether it comes to standing up Iraq’s security forces or standing up to extremist bigotry, these efforts require patience, even as we make important progress. We must ensure that when the pivotal battles to defeat Daesh in Iraq are joined, the weight of this counteroffensive will be so unrelenting, so unremitting, that Daesh simply cannot endure it.
The Iraqis will prevail in this fight. I have seen how courageous Iraqi soldiers perform in battle. I saw it working shoulder to shoulder with Iraqi soldiers and tribal fighters in Anbar, as we wrested Iraq’s largest province from al Qaeda’s grip. I’ve seen how fiercely Iraqis will fight for their country, for their children and their future.
Of course, as we saw so tragically in Paris last week, Iraq is the on the frontlines of a global conflict. I was in Paris late last week meeting with French and European counterparts as the crisis there was unfolding, and it was a stark reminder that Daesh’s dark, violent ideology has a long reach. Even before Paris, we saw terrorists inspired by Daesh wreak havoc in Sydney, Ottawa, and Brussels. So none of us can afford to say that degrading and defeating Daesh is solely an Iraqi responsibility. Daesh is a global threat that demands a global response. And that is why the world is coming together to support the brave Iraqis on the front lines fighting this terrible enemy.
Thank you, and I’m happy to take your questions.