ABOARD THE CHARLES DE GAULLE - U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter met Saturday with naval commanders on U.S. and French warships in the Persian Gulf, saying that there will be more to come in the battle against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
Carter visited French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which is expected to begin launching airstrikes against IS soon.
He also talked to American troops on the USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship that's been supporting coalition missions in Iraq and Syria.
Carter's visit to the Charles de Gaulle underscores France's increased participation in the fight, in the wake of the Paris attacks last month. IS militants claimed responsibility for the Nov. 13 attacks that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds.
"We are completely aligned with France on the mission of defeating ISIL," said Carter, using another acronym for Islamic State militants. "France's willingness to do more as we do more, both in the air and on the ground, and here at sea . . . I was very gratified to see that in action out aboard the Charles de Gaulle."
According to officials, the French are the second highest contributor of airstrikes in the coalition's campaign against IS, with the U.S. providing the vast majority. The officials could not say what percentage the French provide.
The U.S. and French militaries operate routinely together, and Carter was able to meet with a number of U.S. forces who are stationed on the Charles de Gaulle. While on board he spoke by phone with French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Carter flew from the French ship to the USS Kearsarge, which was about seven nautical miles away. He met with the ship's commander, Navy Capt. Larry Getz, and later spoke to sailors and Marines saying the ship is playing an important role in the effort to quickly defeat IS.
The ship visits come at the end of a weeklong trip to the region, including stops in Iraq, Turkey, and Afghanistan. The theme of Carter's visit has been the need to accelerate the fight against the Islamic State group.