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Pentagon Chief Arrives In Iraq On Unannounced Visit


U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (file photo)

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has arrived in Baghdad on an unannounced visit as Iraqi forces pressed an assault on Tal Afar, one of the last pockets of territory held in the country by the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

Mattis arrived in the Iraqi capital on August 22, just hours after President Donald Trump outlined his new strategy for Afghanistan.

The Pentagon chief was expected to meet in Baghdad with U.S. military commanders and senior Iraqi government leaders. He also planned to hold talks in Irbil with Masud Barzani, leader of the autonomous Kurdish region that has helped fight IS militants.

The visit comes two days after U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces launched their offensive to recapture the city of Tal Afar, about 80 kilometers from Mosul and 150 kilometers from the Syrian border.

The major northern city of Mosul was recaptured in July following a nine-month battle against IS fighters, marking the biggest defeat for the Sunni extremist group since its sweep through northern Iraq in summer 2014.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP
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