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Pentagon chief: U.S. eyes ways to step up Islamic State fight

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  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he will talk with his commanders in the coming days to identify more ways the U.S. can intensify the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, including more airstrikes, cyberattacks, and American troops on the ground.

AL-DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates >> U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he will talk with his commanders in the coming days to identify additional ways the U.S. can intensify the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, including more airstrikes, cyberattacks and American troops on the ground.

He said the United States wants to do more in the fight and is “only limited by our own ingenuity” and ideas. Carter expressed confidence that the White House will approve recommendations, saying nothing he has asked President Barack Obama for yet in the conflicts has been turned down.

Carter spoke to reporters at Al-Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi, an important launching point for military operations against the Islamic State group in the region.

His visit comes as the U.S. is considering moves to boost the number of American troops in Iraq, as well as other steps to help the Iraqis take on IS.

Carter suggested the U.S. may consider shifting the nature of its military campaign against the extremists, adding there could be more rapid targeting of the enemy as intelligence on the ground improves.

“As we’ve learned more and are more on top of the enemy, you can do more dynamic targeting,” Carter said.

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

It’s unclear whether the increase would force the White House to formally approve a higher cap on troop levels in Iraq, now set at 3,780.

The Pentagon says there are close to 3,400 U.S. troops there now. According to U.S. officials, however, there are actually as many as 5,000 American forces in the country, but some do not count against the cap because they are in Iraq on temporary duty.

Dunford and Carter have said that accelerating the fight against IS could mean using Apache helicopters for combat missions, deploying more U.S. special operations forces or using American military advisers in Iraqi units closer to the front lines.

The U.S. also is likely to provide additional artillery fire and targeting help for Iraqi forces advancing on Mosul. Those American forces, however, would remain well behind the front lines.

Carter has said that Obama and other U.S. leaders will encourage other Gulf nations to contribute economically to the effort to rebuild Iraq once IS is defeated.

Obama and other U.S. officials are expected to attend the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council leaders’ summit next week in Saudi Arabia. The six member countries are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

Carter said Saturday that the U.S. hopes that the Gulf nations will support Iraq politically as it tries to establish a more successful multisectarian government.

During his visit to the air base, Carter spoke with troops, including those who have been flying and supporting the airstrikes over Iraq and Syria.

Two large Global Hawk surveillance aircraft, an F-22 Raptor fighter jet and and F-15E strike fighter were arrayed in the hangar where Carter spoke.

U.S. Air Force Col. Johnny Barnes, the vice commander of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing told reporters that Russian fighters in Syria haven’t impeded U.S. airstrikes. But he acknowledged that there were moments in northwest Syria when the Russian jets were an “inconvenience.”

Now that some have left the country, he said it’s been “less inconvenient.”

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  • All three former Defense Secretaries before Carter unloaded on Odummy and his WH Goons for interfering on ANY kind of decision making from them. This included Panetta, a lifelong Democrat. All three were always hindered by the WH throughout their tenures of Sec. of Defense that they resigned in disgust. Why anyone would want to work for this Comedy Act of an Administration is a wonder. Decrease in Defense, increase in Terror, thats how Odummy equates safety to the American people. Yet he says he did “an excellent job in keeping Americans safe under his presidency. Truly delusional goofball.

  • The Damage is already DONE!You guys were supposed to do this years ago! The middle east is in chaos because of ISIS and let’s not forget what happened to our European friends. Being flooded with the mass Syrian migration ,& those hidden terror cells!! In this administration? France(2xs) , Belgium and the USA (besides 911) had a taste of a terror strikes!!This just another…….”Johnny Come Lately” speech folks !! 8 months and Counting

    • In reality, the Middle East is in chaos presently in part because of 68 years of US foreign policy that 1) based foreign policy on domestic political expediency, 2) created a major dependence upon foreign oil to create immense profits for oil companies, and 3) completely failed to acknowledge and work with cultural and religious differences thus creating adversarial relationships.

      In short, it’s been a screw-up of such monumental proportions over such a long period that absolute blame cannot be laid with one administration. There’s plenty of blame for everyone over the past two-thirds of a century.

  • Time for a troop surge into Iraq and Syria. These wars will never be over and ISIS is committed to attacking European countries and America whether we have troops in the Middle East or not. They want to kill, kill, kill.

  • They need to go after the main IS supporters – Saudi Arabia and Turkey. It doesn’t have to be military – impose big sanctions on them, cut off military hardware sales, and even start freezing their assets in the U.S.

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