Top U.S. general seeks momentum in Iraq, bucks 'stalemate' label

Marine Corps General Dunford testifies during the Senate Armed Services committee nomination hearing on Capitol Hill in WashingtonBy Phil Stewart BAGHDAD (Reuters) – U.S. Marine General Joseph Dunford, who took over this month as America’s top military officer, pledged on Tuesday to seek new ways to build momentum in Iraq’s battle against Islamic State and bucked descriptions of the conflict as a “stalemate.” Emerging from his first trip to Iraq as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dunford said he was encouraged by the latest battlefield gains, including an advance to secure most of the strategic Baiji oil refinery. After operational briefings from U.S. commanders and talks with Iraqi leaders, Dunford also said Iraqi security forces had taken critical terrain around the city of Ramadi “and tightened the noose.” The advances, he said, marked a sharp contrast with the picture in Iraq less than two months ago, when the last chairman, General Martin Dempsey, described the state-of-play in Iraq as tactically stalemated.

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