US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday he is looking to NATO allies for more help countering the ISIS extremist group in Iraq and in bolstering U.S. defence efforts in the Middle East more broadly.
In an interview while flying to Brussels to attend a NATO defence ministers meeting, Esper told reporters he wants NATO countries to do more to help Iraq’s security forces.
“As they put more forces in, that could allow us to decrease” the U.S. military’s workload there, he said.
Esper is looking for ways to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Iraq so that some can be brought home to focus on longer-term challenges, particularly from China. Similarly, he is considering pulling some troops out of Africa.
The U.S. now has about 5,000 troops in Iraq, continuing a years-long effort to train and advise Iraqi security forces to prevent an ISIS resurgence. There also are about 12,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan more than 18 years after the U.S. invaded to topple the Taliban.
NATO leads a training mission in Iraq, but that contingent is at less than full strength.
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