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Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday rejected the Iraqi prime minister's claim that the U.S. has slowed down weapons and training as coalition fighters aim to retake ISIS strongholds. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told The Associated Press on Wednesday that while the air campaign was helpful, his country was "almost on our own" on the ground.
Hagel took aim at those remarks during what may be his final press briefing before he leaves the post: "I would say even further, I don't think they're helpful." He listed 1,500 Hellfire missiles, 250 vehicles, and weapons and ammunition shipments as examples of the aid the U.S. has expedited during the fight against ISIS. In addition, more than 2,300 U.S. forces are training and assisting Iraqi forces, he said. "The prime minister might want to be a little more mindful of that," Hagel added.
He also questioned recent comments by Stuart Jones, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, that the coalition has killed some 6,000 ISIS fighters. "I have not seen any verification of that number of 6,000," Hagel said, offering only that "thousands" have been killed.
The defense secretary also touched on a related issue dogging the Obama administration — the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center. The president has pledged to close the center. Hagel said he's signed off on 44 transfers of prisoners. About 122 detainees still remain there, and Hagel confirmed that there are currently no other transfer applications awaiting his approval.
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