Baghdad - U.S.
President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared
Kushner, flew into Iraq on Monday with the
top U.S. military officer to get a
first-hand assessment of the battle against
Islamic State from U.S. commanders on the
ground and to meet Iraqi officials.
For Kushner, who has not been to Iraq
before, the trip comes at a critical time as
Trump examines ways to accelerate a U.S.-led
coalition campaign that U.S. and Iraqi
officials say has so far been largely
successful in uprooting Islamic State
militants in Iraq and Syria.
The visit appears to demonstrate the
far-reaching portfolio of Kushner, 36, who
is part of Trump’s innermost circle and who
has been given a wide range of domestic and
foreign policy responsibilities, including
working on a Middle East peace deal.
Marine General Joseph Dunford, the
chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs
of Staff, said he invited Kushner and Tom
Bossert, White House homeland security
adviser, to accompany him so they could hear
“first-hand and unfiltered” from military
advisers about the situation on the ground
and interact with U.S. forces.
“I said, ‘Hey, next time I go to Iraq, if
you’re interested, come and it’d be good,”
Dunford said, adding he extended the
invitation weeks ago.
That kind of ground-level awareness of
the war helps inform strategic decisions,
Dunford said, adding it was the same reason
he regularly leaves Washington to visit
“The more appreciation you could have for
what’s actually happening on the ground, the
more informed you are when you start talking
about the strategic issues,” Dunford said.
Although media reported on Sunday that
Kushner and Dunford were in Iraq over the
weekend, they only arrived on Monday
afternoon. Reuters was among a small group
of reporters traveling with the U.S.
Kushner, who is married to Trump’s
daughter Ivanka Trump, did not speak with
reporters during the flight to Iraq.
Dunford’s spokesman, Navy Captain Greg
Hicks, said Kushner was traveling on behalf
of Trump to express the president’s support
and commitment to Iraq’s government and U.S.
personnel helping combat Islamic State.
Trump, who campaigned on defeating
Islamic State, has yet to announce any
dramatic shift in war strategy.
U.S. ROLE AFTER MOSUL FIGHT
The trip to Iraq comes as Iraqi security
forces engage in fierce, house-to-house
fighting to retake Mosul, Islamic State’s
last major stronghold in Iraq and the city
where leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a
caliphate nearly three years ago.
Nearly 290,000 people have fled the city
to escape the fighting, according to the
Although the loss of Mosul would deal a
major defeat to Islamic State, U.S. and
Iraqi officials are preparing for smaller
battles even after the city is recaptured
and expect the group to go underground to
fight as a traditional insurgency.
What happens to the U.S. military role in
Iraq after Mosul is recaptured remain
Influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr
has previously called on Iraq’s government
to order the withdrawal of U.S. and allied
forces after the battle of Mosul is over.
Dunford said Iraqi Prime Minister Haider
al-Abadi understood the need for continued
U.S. military support.
“It’s not our judgment that the Iraqis
will be self sustaining and self sufficient
in the wake of Mosul. More importantly, it’s
not Prime Minister Abadi’s assessment,”
Across the border in Syria, a U.S.-backed
campaign to isolate Islamic State’s de facto
capital of Raqqa is advancing ahead of an
eventual assault on the city.
U.S.-backed Syrian forces repelled a
major counter-attack by Islamic State
militants holding out at the country’s
largest dam and in the nearby town of Tabqa,
the group and activists said on Sunday. The
dam is a strategic target in the military
campaign, located about 40 km (25 miles) to
the east of Raqqa.