Shi'ite fighters participate in an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants in Jurf al-Sakhar, south of Baghdad.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A top US official said a ground mission to counter Islamic State in Iraq could begin "within weeks."
In an interview on Sunday with Petra News, as reported by AFP, Gen. John Allen, the US special envoy to counter IS, said that "there will be a major counter offensive on the ground in Iraq."
He emphasized that Iraqi soldiers would take the lead. "In the weeks ahead, when the Iraqi forces begin the ground campaign to take back Iraq, the coalition will provide major firepower associated with that," Allen said. "The United States is doing all it can to deliver its support as quickly as possible."
The US-led coalition set up to battle Islamic State has been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria since August. US Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the coalition has already struck 2,000 IS sites and reclaimed 700 sq.km. from the Islamic extremists that make up Islamic State.
Jordan, a member of the coalition, recently stepped up its bombing of the jihadist group on Thursday in response to the brutal killing by Islamic State of a captured Jordanian pilot, and continued until Saturday. The country's air force chief said that Jordan has conducted 56 bombing raids in three days against Islamic State militants in northeast Syria, targeting key bases and arms depots.Reuters contributed to this report.