By Debbie Gregory.
Even before the horrendous terrorist attacks on Brussels which killed at least 34 people and injured about 170, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that President Obama wants the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) defeated by the end of his term.
Carter said that the president called for the process to be accelerated last fall — about a year after the U.S. first began its counter-ISIS campaign.
President Obama does not want to leave the defeat of ISIS to his successor, and Carter said he’s optimistic.
“I’m confident that we’ll do it. And we have an operational plan now,” Carter said.
Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, the spokesman for U.S. Central Command gave a more cautious assessment as to when the coalition could take back Mosul and Raqqa, ISIS’s respective strongholds in Iraq and Syria.
“I’m not going to put a timeline on it other than to say, you know, we are going to work with our partners on the ground, and the coalition to move as fast as possible,” Ryder said.
The president said that the U.S. will do whatever it can to assist Belgium in bringing to justice those responsible for the attacks, and he urged international unity in defeating ISIS.
The attacks followed the capture in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam, an organizer of the November terror attacks in Paris that targeted cafes, restaurants, a concert hall and stadium, killing 130 people and injuring more than 350.
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told the media that at the time of his capture, Abdeslam was “ready to restart something in Brussels,” and that he’d established a new network of people around him, and that a large weapons cache had been found.