U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived in Baghdad Thursday morning — an unannounced visit.
Carter made the visit to asses the government's progress in uniting sectarian divisions and how the Iraqi army plans to recapture the key city of Ramadi from the Islamic State.
The visit is Carter's first to Iraq since he took office in February. He is not expected to announce any major change in U.S. strategy or U.S. troop level.
"Your forces have performed so very well, so very bravely. And I know that you have suffered great losses too, but I just wanted to tell you that it is very clear to us in Washington what a capable force this is. So it's a privilege for us to be your partners," he told the commanders of the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service Academy.
There are approximately 3,360 U.S. troops in Iraq who are training Iraqi troops, advising Iraqi commanders and providing security for U.S. personnel and facilities. The Iraqi government is planning a counteroffensive to retake Ramadi, and how it fares without the U.S. will be important.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Iraq last weekend. He offered his support to President Obama's strategy of not putting U.S. ground troops alongside Iraqi ground troops as they fight the Islamic State.
(h/t The Associated Press)