(CNSNews.com) - Defense Secretary Ash Carter says he's "sure" that "additional authorities and additional capabilities" will be required to accelerate the defeat of the Islamic State, and he expressed confidence that President Obama, when asked, will say, "go for it."
Fox News's Bret Baier asked Carter on Thursday, "How many more troops can Americans at home expect to be going to Iraq?"
"Well, right now there are about 3,500 U.S. forces there, and there are about 3,500 coalition forces. And their role is to enable tens of thousands of Iraqi army units...to take back their country. So I can't predict that," Carter replied.
"All I can say is, we are prepared to do more wherever we see an opportunity to accelerate this defeat.
"So if more is required, and I'm sure there will be -- additional authorities and additional capabilities that will be required -- I'll let our commanders see opportunities to do that. I will go to the president with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as I have, and if he does like he's done so far, he'll say go for it, because we need to get this done quickly."
As CNSNews.com has reported, President Obama derives his authority to conduct air strikes on the Islamic State from a 2001 authorization for the use of military force that authorizes the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, and persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons..."
Carter told Baier on Thursday he doesn't know if the Iraqi city of Mosul will be recaptured by the time he leaves office: "I can't say that for sure, but I certainly hope so, and we are positioning forces to make that possible.
"Right now -- just as we speak -- right now, forces are moving up, that we have trained. These are Iraqi army units, supported by us in all ways -- with logistics, equipment, training, air power, advisers -- they're moving north to two towns, Makhmur and Qayyarah, that are on the southeast and southwestern side of Mosul.
"Meanwhile, Kurdish Peshmerga units, also equipped, trained and support by the United States, are moving to the north. They will envelop Mosul and collapse ISIL's control. The precise timetable -- we know what the timetable is for those forces that will come -- we'll have to see what ISIL does and how hard they fight. One way or another, Mosul will be taken."
As it pushes to retake Mosul, a key part of ISIL's self-declared caliphate, the U.S. also is conducting air strikes against Islamic State terrorists in Syria, Afghanistan and now Libya.
And ISIL continues to spread, Carter agreed:
"Now it has 30 affiliates in 24 countries and five aspirational," Baier said.
Carter said it's important to destroy ISIL in Syria and Iraq, but "we're going to need to do that anywhere the cancer metastasizes."