US defense secretary arrives in Iraq for talks over ISIL

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WASHINGTON, Jul 23: US Defense Secretary Ash Carter has arrived in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, to hold talks with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi over the country’s progress in its fight against ISIL militants.
Carter, who arrived in Iraq on Thursday, is also expected to meet with tribal leaders from the war-torn Anbar Province.
The US official’s first visit to Iraq since taking office in February comes as the country has announced plans for a counteroffensive to recapture Anbar’s capital city of Ramadi from ISIL militants, which is expected to start within several weeks.
According to Pentagon spokesman army Col. Steve Warren, there are currently about 1,000 to 2,000 ISIL militants fighting in Ramadi, located 10 kilometers (68 miles) west of Baghdad.
Several thousand Iraqi counter-terrorism service members, federal police, and army soldiers are expected to take part in the upcoming operation.
The operation to retake full control of Ramadi is considered critical in regaining momentum in the anti-ISIL battle.
Iraqi forces have managed to carry out operations against the militants in Iraq in recent weeks.
US forces have also been using drones to carry out surveillance and airstrikes against ISIL terrorists in Iraq.
ISIL started its campaign of terror in Iraq in early June, 2014. The heavily-armed militants took control of the northern city of Mosul before sweeping through parts of the country’s western region.
The Takfiri group has been committing heinous crimes against all ethnic and religious groups in Iraq, including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians and others.
According to a recent United Nations report, nearly 15,000 civilians have been killed and another 30,000 injured since March 2014.

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