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>> US Defense Secretary, James Mattis, dropping in on Iraq unannounced. His visit coming just two days after the start of an offensive to reclaim the city, Tal Afar. Speaking to Iraqi leaders about the next steps in the fight against Islamic State, Mattis said that while IS' days are numbered is not beaten yet and won't be any time soon.
The US backed ground offensive to reclaim Tal Afar began Sunday, it's one of the last urban strongholds held by IS in Iraq. Sitting 80 kilometers west of Mosul, the city has already experienced cycles of sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiite Muslims. As it's a long time strong hold of hard line Sunni Muslim insurgents.
Just a month after Mosul was reclaimed from Islamic State, this is likely to be another fierce battle and further tests may lie ahead. US officials say that while cities like Mosul have been largely cleared of the militants pockets of resistance remain. And there are concerns about the ability of Iraqi forces to hold territory.
During his visit, Mattis is expected to meet Iraq's Prime Minister to discuss the future of US forces in Iraq, and what role Washington will play in ensuring stability for the country.