Carter: U.S. Service Member Killed In Combat In Iraq

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, seen here during a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, on Tuesday confirmed a U.S. service member was killed in Iraq. He also said the United States supports the government of embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

STUTTGART, Germany, May 3 (UPI) — A U.S. service member died Tuesday in Iraq near Mosul as American forces increased efforts to help Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga seize the city held by the Islamic State.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter confirmed the death while visiting Stuttgart, Germany, for a meeting with NATO allies.

“It is a combat death, of course. And a very sad loss,” Carter said, adding the death occurred “in the neighborhood of Erbil.” The U.S.-led NATO coalition in Iraq said the service member was ” killed in northern Iraq as a result of enemy fire.”

Iraqi security forces launched an offensive to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State in March, supported by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes. The effort began by isolating the city from surrounding areas and slowly chipping away at IS territory and supply routes. The Peshmerga later joined the offensive.

Mosul, which was captured by the Islamist militants in June 2014, is considered one of the most important battles in the fight against the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL. President Barack Obama said he expects the city of Mosul to be retaken by the Iraqi government by the end of the year.

Iraq is facing instability from not only violent insurgency but from mass political discontent, as thousands of Iraqis have rallied against the Iraqi government — many of which are under the orders of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Protesters have gone as far as seizing and ransacking the Iraqi Parliament for a day. The protesters have been demanding long-awaited anti-corruption reforms and measures to improve the economy.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s tenure is also threatened. He campaigned on anti-corruption reforms that many Iraqis feel have not arrived quickly enough and others feel will never arrive.

Although Abadi has attempted to enact reforms, the Iraqi Parliament has often blocked his efforts through disruption and inefficiency. The protesters who stormed the Iraqi Parliament did so after a vote on Cabinet reforms was delayed because not enough parliamentarians showed up.

Some protesters have called for the removal of dozens of government officials, including Abadi.
Carter said the United States supports Abadi “strongly because of what he stands for.”

“Prime Minister Abadi stands for, and has been a partner in, all the things that are important to Iraq’s future, namely a country that holds together and doesn’t just spiral off into sectarianism,” Carter said.

“We know what lies down that road, which is a lot of violence for the Iraqi people and more opportunity for extremists like ISIL, and he’s been standing for that, and that’s why we’ve been standing with in regard. He’s had considerable success on the battlefield.”


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