U.S. Defense Secretary Carter in Iraq for talks on Mosul

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived in Baghdad on Sunday for talks with Iraqi leaders on the U.S.-backed military campaign against Islamic State militants in Mosul, the Pentagon said.

Iraqi forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, have been battling Islamic State in Mosul for eight weeks. The army has recaptured about a quarter of the city, but has faced major counter attacks by the retreating jihadists.

Carter said last week the battle for Mosul, while hard, could be complete before President-elect Donald Trump takes office next month. That, however would require a significant acceleration in the Iraqi army’s progress.

The Pentagon said Carter would meet Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the president of the Kurdish region Massoud Barzani and the commander of the U.S.-led coalition supporting Iraqi forces, U.S. Lieutenant-General Steve Townsend.

He will “thank U.S., coalition, and Iraqi troops engaged in the counter-ISIL campaign, survey key locations directly supporting the battle for Mosul, and discuss the next steps in the fight” against Islamic State, it said in a statement.