Defense chief: Iraqis 'still in the lead' against ISIS

Defense chief: Iraqis 'still in the lead' against ISIS
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Iraqis will lead the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) even as U.S. troops move closer to the front lines, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday.

“Iraqis are still in the lead,” he said in an interview on "NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt set to air Monday night. “That doesn’t change.”

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Earlier Monday, Pentagon officials announced that 200 more U.S. troops are being sent to the country to support Iraqi forces as they fight to retake Mosul from ISIS.

Also, teams of about a dozen U.S. troops each can now embed with Iraqi brigades and battalions, putting them closer to the fight than before. Those teams will be there to offer advice and assistance, officials said.

Carter's was responding to a question from Holt on whether the changes put more American lives at risk.

“Americans are at risk today, every single day here,” Carter said. “As secretary of Defense, I take that more seriously than anything else. I want our troops to be effective, but I want them also to be as safe as possible, consistent with that.”

Still, Carter said, the changes are needed to speed up the defeat of ISIS.

“It's very important to do this because we have to and we will defeat ISIL,” he said, using an alternate acronym for the group. “We need to get that done as soon as possible and that means being more aggressive in the moves we make.”