U.S Department of Defense
The following is the opening statement by the Secretary of Defense extracted from a session that included a Q&A session.
12/03/2017 02:37 PM CST
Presenter: Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis Dec. 3, 2017
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Coming out of Aqaba, Jordan, where he had the Aqaba Conference. This process is one where the king, in this case ably assisted by the president of Nigeria, hosted an assembly of West African and associated — and by associated I mean supportive countries organizations, international organizations.
And just King Abdullah has always been someone who represents a moderate form of Islam and a willingness to work with other countries in the region and worldwide, as we try to make a for a little more stable world.
And just a reminder, we were just talking about the spa and everything there at the hotel, this is a country that exists within a few dozen kilometers of four nations altogether — Jordan and Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel. But we all met there peacefully in that beautiful setting, and a reminder that when there’s the political will to work together, countries with different domestic agendas, different foreign policies, can certainly work together when there’s the political will.
And in a world which we focus often on how people don’t get along, it’s always interesting to see an example right there. We just take for granted. Of course it’s that way. Well, no, it’s not of course; it’ because there’s leaders willing to work with one another, and not simply be either cynical — cynical or standoffish or combative with one another.
So it’s a good reminder that they would — that they could do that, because today’s conference was about how we undercut or prevent the conditions that breed violent extremist organizations. And brought the other 44 senior officials and military leaders from various countries and international organizations, like African Union, European Union, plus other countries — Italy, France, United Kingdom, United States — I could go on — Canada, Australia, and others.
This session this year focused on promoting West African regional security. It goes annually. This one is out to checkmate and reduce the threat of Boko Haram, ISIS in West Africa and Al Qaeda. And it, overall, for me, it was on opportunity to listen to them, because each area we operate is different from others. You don’t simply — you would take many lessons learned from one area to another, but you cannot take a template from one area to another, because the contributing factor is the aggravating conditions are always unique, at least in their scope, perhaps in their intensity, although oftentimes you find the same things — economic — a lack of a economic opportunity, a lack of educational opportunity, those kind of things.
So lessons learned can be shared, but at the same time you have to size it up for its individual local conditions. With the U.S. going — with our approach to our military relations, we work by, with and through others, and in this case it is by, with and through African-led solutions to the instability of terrorism.
Some of you may have heard about, I think, yesterday we had killed innocent people, murdered and wounded in Nigeria, for example, by Boko Haram, a reminder why we get together, why we share intelligence, and why we work by, with and through the African nations, and their organizations unique in this area. That was the Multinational Joint Task Force, and also the G5 Sahel Organization, these are five nations in the Sahel who have grouped together.
So we’ll continue to work by, with and through them. Our partners coordinate defense diplomatic and developmental support. We don’t take a myopically military-only support. That’s not the way you solve these things. It’s got to be whole of government, and in this particular region we’ll work through the Trans-Saharan Counter-terrorism Partnership to prevent the spread of violent extremism. And they’re all very much aware right now that the physical caliphate is being taken down in Syria and Iraq.
They’ve seen some efforts, for example, by ISIS to move to Libya. You saw us push them on their back foot in January. We’ve done it again a couple of months ago. We’re doing it as we speak now, and that’s one of the reasons I met with the prime minister of Libya today before we all got on the airplane coming out to the region here.
So let me — that’s kind of where we’re at right now. It was a very fruitful session this morning. I made some good contacts, people I can work with, and the contacts are not limited just to Africa. I also include contacts in Latin America and Asia, and of course our continuing efforts with the European Union and NATO countries.