Kerry in Iraq: Time to ‘turn up pressure’ on IS extremists


Islamic State extremists are losing ground in Iraq, their leaders and fighters are being eliminated and the group’s rank-and-file members are losing hope, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday.

Kerry made a quick visit to Baghdad Friday for talks with Iraqi leaders. He promised the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State “will work with Iraq to turn up the pressure even further” during the coming weeks and months.

The top US diplomat underscored continued American support for the Iraqi government in its efforts to strengthen security and work toward stability in politics and economic development.

Kerry flew to Baghdad from Bahrain for his first visit to the Iraqi capital since 2014. He met with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the Kurdistan regional government’s prime minister, Nechrivan Barzani, before appearing before reporters at a news conference.

Listing recent gains against extremists in Iraq, Kerry said Islamic State “fighters have not been on the offensive in months,” and have lost more than 40 percent of the territory they once controlled.

US-led coalition airstrikes have targeted IS leaders and disrupted the jihadist group’s cash flow, Kerry said, adding that IS is “losing ground, losing fighters and losing cash.”

Kerry said Iraqi forces are laying the groundwork for a major effort to retake Mosul, in northern Iraq, which fell to Islamic State militants in 2014. There are indications the United States is lending additional support to the Iraqis’ assault on the strategically important city.

Kerry said the Mosul operation is underway and still evolving. Pentagon officials said earlier this week that a coalition airstrike destroyed an IS headquarters complex in Mosul that formerly had been a Turkish consulate.

There are currently about 3,870 US forces in Iraq.

Kerry said there were no specific Iraqi requests for additional American troops, although reports in the United States say such a proposal may soon be put forward by the Pentagon.

US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford and Defense Secretary Ash Carter are expected to request more U.S. troops to fight Islamic State militants, and White House spokesman Josh Earnest has said President Barack Obama would give such a recommendation “careful consideration.”