US forces in Iraq carry out overnight strike on ISIS cell

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US coalition forces in Iraq carried out an airstrike last night on an ISIS complex in north and central Iraq in the town of Tuz Khurmatu at the request of Iraqi forces, Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III told Al Arabiya.

Multiple airstrikes have been carried out in the area over the last few years as coalition forces continue to root ISIS out of the country.

“Our partnership with the Iraqi security forces remains strong,” Caggins said, and Iraq is safer than “it has been in years.”

“Iraqi security forces are better led, better trained and better equipped than they have been in many years. And there's a lot of hope for the future of Iraq,” he continued.

Caggins spoke to Al Arabiya as the top US military figure Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, US Central Command Commander, visited Iraq on Tuesday where he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

McKenzie said he was confident that ongoing talks with Iraq will keep US military troops in the country. While there are still more than 5,200 US troops in Iraq, the US and Iraq began discussions last month over whether or not American troops should withdraw. Nearly two decades after the US-led invasion of Iraq, bilateral relations between the two countries hit new lows after the killing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Qassem Soleimani, renewed issue to the presence of US troops.

While the Iraqi Parliament has urged US troops to withdraw, al-Kadhimi must weigh potential security gaps that would emerge if Iraqi forces are left to their own devices.

ABC News reported that McKenzie believes talks could result in a smaller US troop presence “as Iraqi get better at what they do.” US forces have provided training to Iraqi soldiers to achieve this end for years.

Caggins said “It's going to take everybody working together to defeat terrorism, and to change the mindset of evildoers who are in this country.” He continued that Iraq has taken recent action to arrest outlaws – referring to those associated with Iran-backed militias in the country – and he believes this will continue under new prime minister al-Kadhimi.

Read more: Iraq says 13 pro-Iran fighters arrested for anti-US rocket attacks: AFP

As al-Kadhimi came to power, he pledged to rein in the militias that are not under state control.

Coalition forces in Iraq have primarily sought to defeat ISIS, but Caggins said the Iraqi and US troops working alongside each other have the right to defend themselves.

“We help the Iraqi security forces defend diplomatic facilities and the bases that we use together. These attacks from rogue militia groups who operate outside of the Iraqi law are a deadly distraction from our mission to defeat Daesh,” he said using another name for ISIS.

The US military spokesperson noted that the US and coalition do not own any of the Iraqi bases, but coalition troops live on the Iraqi bases, and they partner and work closely with the Iraqi security forces.

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