Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Storms a growing danger for East Coast Israel, Jordan, UAE sign pivotal deal to swap solar energy, desalinated water GOP seeks oversight hearing with Kerry on climate diplomacy MORE said Friday that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has not requested more U.S. ground troops in advance of the battle to retake Mosul.
“There was no request from Prime Minister Abadi for some new infusion of troops at this point in time, and nor did we discuss that,” Kerry told reporters at a press conference.
Kerry met with Abadi and other Iraqi leaders during an unannounced trip to the country Friday to discuss the ongoing fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Kerry’s comments counter those from the Pentagon in recent weeks about the need for more troops to help Iraqi forces retake Mosul from ISIS.
At a press conference last month, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said he and Defense Secretary Ash Carter expect more troops to be sent to Iraq.
“We have a series of recommendations that we will be discussing with the president in the coming weeks to further enable our support for the Iraqi security forces,” Dunford said. “So again, the secretary and I both believe that there will be an increase to the U.S. forces in Iraq in the coming weeks. But that decision hasn't been made.”
In the past, the Pentagon has offered help that Iraq has declined. In advance of the battle to retake Ramadi last year, the Pentagon offered Iraq attack helicopters and accompanying advisers, which Abadi declined to take.
Officials have said retaking Mosul will be more difficult than Ramadi, since Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, is more populous than Ramadi and has been ISIS's logistical hub since it seized the city in June 2014.
On Friday, Kerry said U.S. troops are sent to Iraq at the request of the government there.
“Whatever troops we have in Iraq, whatever troops are committed to this effort, are at the request of the government of Iraq,” he said. “And at this point in time, I’m not aware that there’s some additional request.”
Still, he said, there have been discussions about additional operations against ISIS.
“I think there’s been some discussion about some additional operations, specifically from DOD,” he said.
Kerry also touted recent successes of Iraqi and coalition forces, saying ISIS has lost 40 percent of the territory it once held.
“Daesh is getting weaker by the day, and the coalition strategy of supporting the Iraqis with training, with equipment and airstrikes is working,” Kerry said, using an Arabic name for ISIS. “The fact is in Iraq, Daesh fighters have not been on the offensive in months.”