WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2017 —
In his first trip to Baghdad as defense secretary, Jim Mattis today praised the Iraqi army for its resilience and noted the forces are now focused on liberating west Mosul.
The Iraqi army has the full support of the more than 60 members in the coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Mattis told reporters in the Iraqi capital.
"There will be more fights ahead. We'll stick together," the retired Marine Corps general said. "As we look at the future, we're going to continue to stand by the Iraqi army and the Iraqi people who are fighting this enemy."
He commended the accomplishments of the Iraqi army, saying the force has taken casualties, but has reconstituted itself both with equipment and personnel. After a months-long battle, east Mosul was cleared of ISIS. Now, the coalition-backed Iraqi forces have set their sights on freeing western Mosul.
The secretary, during a stop Sunday in Abu Dhabi, told reporters the Iraq visit would allow him to "get current on the situation there," including on the political situation and the situation with ISIS.
"The only way you can do that is by talking to the people responsible over there on the ground," he said.
In Baghdad, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters the Iraqi government realizes the fight is "very complex."
He said he believes the Iraqis will continue to need the assistance of the coalition even after the liberation of Mosul.
Townsend praised the Iraqi army as well, saying it has made a "remarkable turnaround" in two years.
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