08:31 GMT25 January 2021
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    Friday the Pentagon sent mixed messages regarding the possibility of an increase in US forces to combat Daesh in Iraq only days after revelations the Defense Department was underreporting the current troop presence in Iraq.

    The announcement comes after revelations this week that the US currently has several hundred more combat troops in Iraq than the officially reported statistics of 3,800. The underreporting was discovered after a marine was killed on Saturday when Daesh forces launched a rocket at a previously undisclosed Marine outpost in Northern Iraq.

    In the news conference, Defense Secretary Ash Carter also confirmed that US forces killed Daesh’s finance minister along with two other enemy combatants during a US raid inside of Syria. Secretary Carter boasted, "We are systematically eliminating ISIL’s cabinet."

    General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff followed Ash Carter’s statements commenting that recommendations on ways to increase US support for Iraq’s ground fight against Daesh were going to be discussed with President Obama over the weekend.

    In General Dunford’s statement to the Pentagon press corps, he noted that while it was the position of the Pentagon that a troop surge would be necessary to combat Daesh, the White House has yet to actually approve such a measure.  "The secretary and I both believe that there will be an increase in US forces in Iraq in coming weeks, but that decision hasn’t been made," said General Dunford.

    General Dunford’s comments on progress against Daesh were also more measured than that of the Secretary. The General remarked that there has been "indisputable progress" against Daesh in recent weeks through coalition airstrikes targeting the group’s leaders, command and control structure, and financing. However, he restrained optimism noting, "by no means would I say that we are about to break the back of ISIL or that the fight is over."

    Secretary Carter, by contrast, sees the US approaching a positive tipping point in the conflict against Daesh commenting that, “The removal of this ISIL leader will hamper the organization’s ability to conduct operations both inside and outside Iraq and Syria.”

    The question before President Obama now is whether a troop surge is necessary to finish the job of eradicating Daesh or if the current strategy of airstrikes and containment remain more appropriate.


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