MORMUGAO PORT TRUST, India (AP) — Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday that struggles within the Iraq government won't stall the U.S. military campaign to beef up the fight against Islamic State militants in the country.
He said he expects the U.S. to ask other Persian Gulf nations next week to help in a broader effort to rebuild Iraq once the Islamic State group is defeated. President Barack Obama and other top U.S. officials are expected to attend the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council Leaders' Summit next week in Saudi Arabia.
"Economically, it's important that the destruction that's occurred be repaired and we're looking to help the Iraqis with that," Carter said during a visit to the USS Blue Ridge, the U.S. Navy's command ship for the Asia Pacific. He added that the reconstruction will be a "global" effort.
"I believe that will be one of the things that the president will want to raise with the Gulf partners when he meets with them at the end of next week — their ability to participate in that economic issue," he said.
Carter said, however, that he does not expect the political problems to impede the U.S. plan to increase military support to the anti-Islamic State fight.
The Pentagon is preparing recommendations on ways to increase support for Iraq's ground fight, including a likely increase in American forces. Other options could include using Apache helicopters for combat missions, deploying more U.S. special operations forces or using American military advisers in Iraqi units closer to the front lines.
"We're going to accelerate the military campaign as fast as we can," he said.
Iraqi forces have been preparing operations to retake the northern city of Mosul. While they got off to a slow start, there have been some recent advances, and officials say momentum has been growing in the fight against IS.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, during a visit to Baghdad last Friday pledged $155 million in new U.S. aid to Iraq and offered a show of political support to Iraq's beleaguered Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
Al-Abadi is struggling with ongoing sectarian challenges as the government grapples with economic problems and corruption. U.S. officials have consistently said that the government must quell its sectarian divide in order to defeat the Islamic State across the country and prepare for the aftermath of rebuilding.
Carter's visit to the Blue Ridge came during a stop in the Indian state of Goa, where he met with Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar. India is the first country on an expansive two-week trip Carter is making to Asia and the Middle East.