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Sunni Insurgents in Iraq Having Trouble Advancing: Pentagon

Iraqi security forces appear to be capable of defending the capital of Baghdad, which the insurgents have vowed to capture, Pentagon officials said.

Iraqi security forces are “stiffening” around Baghdad and capable of defending the capital from the militant insurgents who’ve vowed to topple the government, U.S. defense officials said Thursday. The Sunni insurgents — known as Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS — appear to be stretched thin and are trying to hold onto the towns and targets they first claimed with deadly violence a month ago, said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “They’re stretched — stretched to control what they’ve gained,” Dempsey said at a news conference at the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that about 200 military advisers currently in the country have a single mission: to assess ISIS and the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces to fight them off. He reiterated that U.S. troops currently in Iraq won’t fight on the battlefield, although that could change if necessary. The U.S. military, meanwhile, has opened a second joint operations Command with Iraqi forces in the northern city of Erbil. There are currently about 650 troops in the country, with the majority there to protect American personnel and facilities.

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— Jim Miklaszewski and Erik Ortiz