The White House will next week host the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), a frontline ally in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a U.S. official said on Thursday.
President Masoud Barzani will meet with both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden only weeks after a landmark visit by new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Barzani's last visited Washington inApril 2012.
The Kurdish leader will arrive on Sunday for a week-long visit that will also include talks on Wednesday with Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken to discuss "the combined campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
The U.S.-led coalition has carried out more than 3,000 airstrikes over Iraq since September in the fight against extremist ISIS militants, who seized large swaths of Iraqi and Syrian territory in a lightning move last summer.
KRG peshmerga forces moved into parts of the disputed northern territory after Iraqi federal security forces withdrew, and Iraqi Kurdish forces have been receiving weapons deliveries from coalition countries including Britain, France and Germany as well as the U.S.
Between 4,000 and 6,000 Iraqis, many of whom fled when ISIS captured Mosul, are also now being trained in Iraqi Kurdistan for the upcoming battle to retake the city.
Mosul, which lies some 90 kilometers west of the KRG capital, Irbil, holds special significance for the militants as it was where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed his caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria.
KRG peshmerga fighters sent from Irbil were also instrumental in defeating the ISIS bid to capture the Syrian town of Kobani on the border with Turkey under a deal brokered by the U.S. with Ankara to give them safe passage into Syria.
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