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Ash Carter Visits Baghdad as Attack on ISIS-Held City Looms

Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived in Baghdad Monday to discuss beefing up Iraqi forces working to retake the northern city of Mosul.
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/ Source: Reuters

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived in Baghdad Monday to discuss beefing up Iraqi forces working to retake the northern city of Mosul, a critical goal in the effort to defeat ISIS.

A senior U.S. official told The Associated Press that as the U.S. moves to help the Iraqis, it will also likely mean that at least a "small number" of additional American forces will go to the war zone.

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Carter has said the U.S. is considering a number of options, including more airstrikes, cyberattacks and American troops on the ground.

Late last month, U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that he and Carter believe U.S. forces in Iraq will increase in the coming weeks. Any final decision would be worked out with the Iraqi government and require President Barack Obama's approval.

Some of those decisions could become clearer in the coming days and weeks. Obama will be in Saudi Arabia later this week to meet with Gulf leaders and talk about the fight against ISIS.

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On Saturday, Carter said that Iraq will need economic, political, and military help to recover once ISIS militants are defeated.

"Even as we're looking to make contributions in all three of those areas, so also can the Gulf partners, and we'll want to talk to them about that," he said.

"For the defeat of ISIL to stick in Iraq and Syria, these badly broken places destroyed by ISIL, pillaged by ISIL, mistreated by ISIL, are going to need to be rebuilt," Carter added, using another acronym for ISIS.

ISIS has seized large portions of Iraq and Syria since 2014. Iraqi forces have won back some of the territory, such as the provincial capital of Ramadi, but often after long battles that have left the cities destroyed.

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ISIS has established a key stronghold in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, and retaking it from the militants is the key end game, the U.S. official told The Associated Press.

But U.S. military and defense officials also have made clear that winning back Mosul will be challenging, because the insurgents are dug in and have likely peppered the landscape with roadside bombs and other traps for any advancing military.