U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Islamic State fighters have been losing ground in Iraq for months and will face increasing pressure from the U.S.-led coalition. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Iraq on Friday to show support for its prime minister, who is grappling with a political crisis, a collapsing economy and a fight to retake ground from Islamic State militants. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi last week unsettled Iraq's political elite with a proposed cabinet reshuffle that aims to curb entrenched corruption by replacing long-time politicians with technocrats and academics. His aim is to free Iraqi ministries from the grip of a political class that has used the system of ethnic and sectarian quotas instituted after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 to amass wealth and influence. U.S. officials fear the political unrest may harm Iraq's efforts to retake territory it has lost to Islamic State militants, notably its second city of Mosul, seized when parts of the Iraqi army collapsed in 2014. In the past two weeks, Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led coalition air strikes have retaken significant parts of Hit, a town 130 km (80 miles) northwest of Baghdad. However, an offensive billed as the first phase of a campaign to recapture the northern city of Mosul has been put on hold until reinforcements arrive, the commander of the operation said on Wednesday. Kerry plans to "encourage the Iraqis, while they're dealing with the cabinet reshuffle, not to lose sight of the need to stay focused on the fight against" Islamic State, a senior U.S. official in Washington told reporters earlier this week.