Pentagon Chief Ash Carter says Donald Trump's plan for ISIS doesn't need to be secret

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Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who has continually declined to comment on a hotly contested presidential race often centering on national security issues, dismissed on Monday President-elect Donald Trump's campaign trail criticism that U.S. plans to fight the Islamic State group must remain entirely secret.

"There are secret tactics involved there, but the fact we're going to Mosul and Raqqa is clear, since they're the two biggest cities," Carter said Monday morning while speaking at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council and 1776, a venture capital firm that supports tech startups.

When pressed, Carter said a centerpiece of the campaign must include broadcasting the U.S.-led coalition's intent to defeat the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL.

"It's important for ISIL to know, and ISIL everywhere else to know, that we intend to destroy them," Carter said, adding, "The inspiration factor around the world – that's why it's so important to destroy them around Iraq and Syria."

See Ash Carter during an important trip:

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Ash Carter visits marine training
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Ash Carter visits marine training
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is briefed about a Marine exercise by Marine Major Quint Harris at Red Beach Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Carter continues three-day, three-state trip to highlight some of his key priorities as secretary. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
United States Marine amphibious assault vehicles head inland after landing on Red Beach during an exercise Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. The exercise was witnessed by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
United States Marines bring captives from a structure during an exercise at Red Beach that was witnessed by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
United States Marines exchange fire with enemy insurgents during an exercise at Red Beach that was witnessed by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter addresses the Marine platoon that participated in an exercise that Carter watched Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, accompanied by his wife, Stephanie Carter, is briefed about a Marine exercise by United States Marine Major Quint Harris at Red Beach Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is briefed by Marine Major Quint Harris, as they watch a Marine exercise at Red Beach Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter addresses the Marine platoon that participated in an exercise that Carter watched Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter observes a Marine exercise at Red Beach Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
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Carter is not expected to stay on in his role in the next administration.

In campaign rallies, interviews and debates, Trump repeatedly refused to offer any specifics on how he would defeat the Islamic State group, claiming that revealing any part of the strategy would give the enemy an advantage. He criticized President Barack Obama and the Pentagon for giving away its intentions in the days leading up to the ongoing campaigns to liberate Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, which Trump claims allowed the extremist fighters holed up there to better prepare their defenses.

"Whatever happened to the element of surprise, okay?" Trump said at the third presidential debate in October, arguing the administration wasted an opportunity to capture more Islamic State group leaders by broadcasting its intention to move on Mosul. "These people have all left. They've all left. The element of surprise. Douglas MacArthur, George Patton spinning in their graves at the stupidity of our country."

In his first interview since winning the election, Trump continued to decline offering specifics to 60 Minutes' Leslie Stahl.

"I'm not like the people going in right now and fighting Mosul and they announced it four months before they went into Mosul and everybody now is – it's a tough fight because, No. 1, the leaders of ISIS have left. Why do I have to tell you that?" Trump said in the interview which aired Sunday night. "I'm not going to say anything. I don't want to tell them anything. I don't want to tell anybody anything."

The Defense Department has struggled with keeping the details of its plans secret while also fulfilling its own pledge to remain transparent about its activities abroad. Officials from Central Command, the headquarters overseeing wars in the Middle East, came under criticism early last year for announcing the offensive to liberate Mosul would begin within months. The actual campaign was stalled by a shortage of organized and trained fighters in Iraq, as well as internal political disputes over which ethnic elements of the country's security forces would be involved in the liberation effort, and how.

Trump has argued his strategy in Iraq would include seizing its oil infrastructure to recoup the costs of war – a strategy experts believe is illegal, and would require and endanger tens of thousands of U.S. troops.

Carter said Monday that Trump's transition team had not yet arrived at the Pentagon to begin preparing for taking over the White House, though he expected those meetings to begin this week. Analysts at Defense have been providing detailed briefings to both candidates throughout the campaign.

Trump has not yet indicated who might succeed Carter, though rumors have circulated fellow Republicans Sen. Jeff Sessions of Georgia or Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, could take up the post. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, formerly the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and close adviser to the Trump campaign, would not qualify for the job according to current rules because he has not been out of uniform for the requisite seven years, though Flynn could get a congressional waiver.

Related: See more photos from the battle to reclaim Mosul:

35 PHOTOS
The battle to reclaim Mosul from ISIS
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The battle to reclaim Mosul from ISIS
A still image taken from an Islamic State (IS) video released through the group's Amaq news agency shows an unidentified militant addressing the camera. Video said to be shot in Mosul, Iraq, on October 18. 2016. REUTERS/Reuters TV via Amaq news agency TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Iraqi army members stand with thier weapons in Qayyarah, during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
Iraqi security forces gesture in Qayyarah, during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A still image taken from an Islamic State (IS) video released through the group's Amaq news agency claims to show militants patrolling the streets of Mosul. Video said to be shot in Mosul, Iraq, on October 18. 2016. REUTERS/Reuters TV via Amaq news agency
Members of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) gather on the outskirts of Bartila east of Mosul during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
An aviation ordnanceman inspects a bomb on an F/A-18E Super Hornet just before take-off for Mosul, Iraq to provide air-support from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower CVN 69 carrier in Arabia Gulf, October 18, 2016. Picture taken October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
A member of the Peshmerga forces inspects homes on the outskirts of Bartila, east of Mosul, during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Peshmerga forces stand around a tunnel used by Islamic State militants on the outskirts of Bartila, east of Mosul during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Iraqi army personnel ride on a military vehicle in Qayyarah, during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
Smoke rises from a bomb taken through the window of a military vehicle in Qayyarah during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
An F/A-18E Super Hornet takes off for Mosul, Iraq to provide air-support from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower CVN 69 carrier in Arabia Gulf, October 18, 2016. Picture taken October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
A U.S army soldier stands with his weapon at a military base in the Makhmour area near Mosul during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
U.S army soldiers arrive at a military base in the Makhmour area near Mosul during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
Peshmerga forces sit in the back of a vehicle in the east of Mosul during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
Christian volunteers, who have joined the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, take part in a training at a training base in the town of Alqosh, 50 km (30 miles) from Mosul, Iraq, October 11, 2016. Picture taken October 11, 2016. REUTERS/Ari Jalal
Peshmerga forces walk in the east of Mosul during operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Smoke rises from clashes at Bartila in the east of Mosul during clashes with Islamic State militants, Iraq, October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
Peshmerga forces advance in the east of Mosul to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Smoke rises from clashes in the east of Mosul during clashes with Islamic State militants, Iraq, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Peshmerga forces advance in the east of Mosul to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Peshmerga forces gather on the east of Mosul during preparations to attack Mosul, Iraq, October 16, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Peshmerga forces with western forces advance in the east of Mosul to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Smoke rises from clashes in the east of Mosul during clashes with Islamic State militants, Iraq, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
A member from western forces stands with his weapon in the east of Mosul, Iraq, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Peshmerga forces gather in the east of Mosul to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Peshmerga forces gather in the east of Mosul to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Peshmerga forces gather in the east of Mosul to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
A member of Peshmerga forces stands on a military vehicle in the east of Mosul, Iraq, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Peshmerga forces gather on the east of Mosul during preparations to attack Mosul, Iraq, October 16, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Peshmerga forces gather in the east of Mosul to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Peshmerga forces gather on the east of Mosul during preparations to attack Mosul, Iraq, early October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Peshmerga forces advance in the east of Mosul to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Smoke rises from clashes in the east of Mosul during clashes with Islamic State militants, Iraq, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Peshmerga forces advance in the east of Mosul to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
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