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Top US General Visits Iraq

by VOA News November 15, 2014

The top U.S. military official has visited Iraq for talks with Iraqi officials and U.S. commanders and troops about the next phase of the expanding war against the Islamic State group.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived Saturday in Baghdad, where he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

An Iraqi spokesman said the prime minister was hoping for close military cooperation from the U.S. but was not seeking combat troops on the ground from any countries.

A spokesman for Dempsey said the primary purpose of the visit to Iraq is to get a firsthand look at the situation in the country, and get a better sense of how the campaign against IS is progressing.

Dempsey met with a group of U.S. Marines in Baghdad before traveling to Irbil in Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdish region for talks with Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani.

The trip is Dempsey's first to Iraq since the U.S.-led coalition began launching airstrikes against Islamic State militants.

Meanwhile, Iraqi government forces have cleared the area around the country's largest oil refinery and are close to retaking the facility from Islamic State fighters.

The Islamic State group captured the refinery near the town of Beiji earlier this year. Iraqi troops recaptured the town Friday.

A few days ago, Dempsey said it was possible that U.S. officials would eventually consider assigning a modest number of American troops to fight with Iraqi forces in the besieged city of Mosul and elsewhere.

President Barack Obama recently authorized the U.S. military to deploy up to 1,500 more troops to Iraq as part of the mission to fight Islamic State militants. White House officials said the troops would not serve in a combat role, but would help train and advise Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting the group.

Obama also will ask Congress for $5.6 billion to help fund the campaign. Senior administration officials said the request includes $1.6 billion to establish an Iraqi fund to support the training effort.

U.S.-led forces have carried out airstrikes almost daily against Islamic State targets in Iraq.

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