U.S. forces will continue to help Iraq to expel the Islamic State.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis held talks with Iraqi leaders on Monday where he promised them that America has not interfered with the country to take its oil. From The Wall Street Journal:
“I think all of us here in this room, all of us in America, have paid for our gas and oil all along and I’m sure that we will continue to do so in the future,” he told reporters in Abu Dhabi before arriving in Iraq on Monday. “We are not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil.”
Instead, America remains committed to helping Iraqi officials oust the remaining Islamic State militants. Both sides continue to try to put aside their differences to eliminate the threat the group poses to both.
At the end of the meeting, Mattis spoke with reporters. He admitted that the U.S. will probably keep troops in Iraq as the army attempts to retake Mosul from the militants.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, stood with Mattis at the conference:
“I imagine we’ll be in this fight for a while and we’ll stand by each other,” Mattis said.
Townsend, who was standing by Mattis, declined to say how long the U.S. will stay in Iraq. But, he said, “I don’t anticipate that we’ll be asked to leave by the government of Iraq immediately after Mosul.” He added, “I think that the government of Iraq realizes their very complex fight, and they’re going to need the assistance of the coalition even beyond Mosul.”
Townsend also acknowledged that U.S. forces are now operating closer and deeper into the fight with Iraq units as the battle to retake western Mosul entered its second day.
The terrorist group captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in the summer of 2014.
Over the weekend, Iraqi forces began a new ground offensive “to retake the western side of Mosul from Islamic State, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said, breaking a weekslong stall in the battle for the city.”
Iraqi forces dropped leaflets over the city to let the civilians know about the offensive:
“It’s your last chance to drop weapons, to quit Daesh, since Daesh is a stranger in our country and our moderate religion,” they read, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
Townsend told reporters that the U.S. forces have started “operating closer and deeper into the fight.” At first, the forces only worked at the headquarters, but now they offer advice and assistance:
More recently they have been moving closer to the battlefront, working with brigade, battalion and sometimes smaller units. But they are generally with command and control units, not in combat on the front lines.
“We embedded advisers a bit further down into the formation,” Townsend said.
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