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Defense Secretary Ash Carter made an unannounced visit to Iraq on Sunday to thank U.S., coalition and Iraqi troops who are fighting against the Islamic State, the Pentagon announced in a statement.

There he will get an update on the nearly two-month old operation to retake Mosul from ISIS, visit locations “directly supporting” the offensive and speak with key leaders in the country, including Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani.

The visit comes one day after Carter announced at a security conference in Bahrain that approximately 200 more American troops are being deployed to Syria to assist Kurdish and Arabic forces who are fighting to oust Islamic State militants from Raqqa.

In Iraq, not only will the Carter will meet with members of the Iraqi forces involved in the fight for Mosul, but the Pentagon says he will also greet and thank Kurdish Peshmerga, a group which has a tense relationship with Turkey, another U.S. ally in the region.



Carter is in the middle of a round-the-world trip to thank deployed U.S. troops for their service over the holidays. His final trip as Obama’s defense secretary has already brought him to Japan, India, Afghanistan and Bahrain, and he is scheduled to also travel to Israel, Italy and the United Kingdom, where the Pentagon says he will “conclude the trip by participating in the latest meeting of defense ministers from the leading military contributors to the international coalition to defeat ISIL.”

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