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Biden seeks to control fallout after Pentagon Iraq comments

Vice President Joe Biden has reassured Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi following remarks made by a US official. On television Sunday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter questioned the Iraqi military’s "will to fight."

As the

United States commemorated Memorial Day

on Monday, Vice President Joe Biden reassured Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi that the US remained committed to helping

Iraq fight the "Islamic State"

- an effort at damage control after Defense Secretary Ash Carter questioned Iraqi troops' desire to fight. Biden thanked Abadi for "the enormous sacrifice and bravery of Iraqi forces," according to the White House, and welcomed the decision to mobilize troops and "prepare for counterattack operations."

The vice president pledged full US support to "these and other Iraqi efforts to liberate territory from ISIL," according to the statement, which used an alternative acronym for a former name for the group.

On Sunday, Carter questioned whether Iraqi forces had the "will to fight." Abadi has since told the United Kingdom's BBC that the defense secretary "was fed the wrong information." Carter's remarks, Iraq's indignation and Biden's apologetic efforts come after IS took Ramadi over a week ago.

'No will' US?

Neighboring Iran, which also allies with Iraq against IS, had a harsher take on Carter's comments and US efforts in general. The daily newspaper Javan, quoted General Qassim Soleimani, the head of the elite Quds forces in Iran's Revolutionary Guard, as saying that, even with troops stationed in Iraq, the United States did not do a "damn thing" to stop IS's advance on Ramadi. The US military currently has about 3,000 personnel stationed in Iraq, though none of those is engaged in day-to-day combat operations.

Soleimani said the US had shown "no will" of its own in fighting IS.

Iran backs the Shiite Muslim militias that Iraq's government intends to send into Ramadi to take the city back after the military collapsed and retreated last week. Al-Abadi has pledged to wrest control of Ramadi from the largely Sunni Muslim IS "within days."

On Monday, Iraqi officials announced that a key border crossing to Syria

had fallen to IS

. In Syria,

the government launched airstrikes

on the city of Palmyra, a site of

millienia of archaeological treaures

that IS seized last week.

mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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