22 October 2015

Chairman of JCS Arrives in Baghdad to Assess the State of the War Against ISIS

Michael R. Gordon
October 20, 2015

Joint Chiefs Chairman Arrives in Iraq to Assess Fight Against ISIS

BAGHDAD — The top United States military officer arrived in Iraq on Tuesday to take stock of the campaign against the Islamic State and to confer with senior American commanders and Iraqi officials.

The officer, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who took over this month as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is making his first overseas trip since assuming the post, and as Iraq and the American-led coalition there are trying to bolster their fight against the militants.

After landing in Erbil, General Dunford was to meet with Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish regional government, and other senior Kurdish officials.

Kurdish leaders have repeatedly asked that their forces receive arms shipments directly from the United States. But the Obama administration has routed most supplies though the capital, Baghdad, arguing that respecting the sovereignty of the Iraqi government requires doing so.

The American-led coalition is putting pressure on militants of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, on several fronts. Backed by American air power, Iraqi forces are on the outskirts of Ramadi, which was taken by militants in May. Iraqi forces and Shiite militias captured the Baiji oil refinery, north of Baghdad, on Friday and are trying to expand the territory under their control there.

Clashes are also taking place in the Sinjar region, in northwest Iraq, between Kurdish forces and the Islamic State.

The American military said last week that it had parachuted 50 tons of ammunition to Syrian Arab fighters in northeast Syria, with a goal of having them join a larger body of Kurdish forces advancing toward Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital in Syria,

“We are trying to fight him throughout the depth and breadth of the battlefield in Iraq and Syria,” Lt. Gen. Sean B. MacFarland, the commander of the American effort in Iraq and Syria, said on Sunday, referring to fighters for the Islamic State.

General Dunford, who commanded a Marine Corps regiment during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, arrived in Iraq after talks with military officials in Israel and Jordan.

His visit to Iraq comes as Russia and Iran are asserting themselves in the Syria conflict, as Iranian-backed militias operate in Iraq and as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq tries to consolidate his authority.

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