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German defense minister labels fight against 'IS' in Iraq a success

Ursula von der Leyen has said that arming and training the Kurdish Peshmerga army in the north of Iraq was the correct strategy. Germany has also been supplying local forces with equipment and weapons.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has labeled the fight against the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) in Iraq a success.

"[IS] has suffered a significant defeat and is being pushed back into the Mosul area," von der Leyen said during a stop-off in Amman, Jordan, en route to Baghdad.

"It shows that our strategy to arm and train local forces, so that they can fight for the freedom of their home country, was the correct path," she said.

The Defense Minister is on her way to Iraq to hold talks with Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish representatives in the capital Baghdad on Thursday. The discussion will focus on the ongoing fight Islamist militants.

Iraqi forces are seeking to reclaim the city of Mosul, which has been under IS occupation since 2014. However, experts estimate that the siege could last months and displace hundreds of thousands of people.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen flies to Iraq

Around 140 German troops are currently training local forces in northern Iraq.

Training peshmerga troops

Von der Leyen said the talks will demonstrate "the importance of a united Iraq" and that Germany supports the whole country. However, Germany's military presence has mainly been concentrated in the north of the country.

Following the talks in Baghdad, von der Leyen will visit German troops in the northern Iraqi town of Erbil.

Around 140 German soldiers are currently training Kurdish fighters of the Peshmerga army. The German military is supplying equipment and weapons, and has also deployed Tornado jet planes from Turkey to conduct air strikes on IS-occupied areas in Syria and Iraq.

Von der Leyen's state visit to Iraq was kept secret for security reasons up until she landed in Jordan in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Tensions and the risk of terror attacks are high in the Iraqi capital. A few days before von der Leyen's trip, a suicide bomber killed 10 people in a Baghdad shopping center.

dm/msh (dpa, AFP)