16 Nov 2014

US general makes surprise visit to Iraq

1:54 pm on 16 November 2014

The United States' top general has told troops in Iraq that momentum is turning against Islamic State (IS) militants.

Martin Dempsey shakes hands with US service members in Baghdad, Iraq.

General Martin Dempsey shakes hands with US service members in Baghdad, Iraq. Photo: AFP / DOD / D Myles Cullen

General Martin Dempsey, on an unannounced visit, called the militants "midgets" but said the battle against them was likely to take years, the BBC reported.

The US has launched air strikes against IS and has more than 1000 non-combat personnel in Iraq to help to train local forces. It has promised another 1500.

General Dempsey said this week that Iraq actually needed at least 80,000 competent troops of their own to beat IS.

He said he had come to Iraq to assess the effectiveness of the US contribution to the fight against IS and to hear from those doing the lifting that they had the resources that they need.

Two days ago, the general told the US House of Representatives' Armed Services Committee that the door remained open for sending combat troops to help Iraqi forces retake the northern city of Mosul, which IS took over in June.

IS controls huge areas of Iraq and Syria, though Iraqi forces have claimed victory in some recent battles.

The Iraqi army said earlier they had driven IS from around the country's largest oil refinery near the town of Baiji.

On Friday, officials said the military had also retaken Baiji, which had been under militant control since June.

The UN recently accused IS of imposing a rule of terror in some areas of Syria, characterised by public beheadings as well as widespread rape and torture of civilians.

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