A member of the Iraqi Kurdish security forces takes cover as he patrols a street in the southern suburbs of Kirkuk on October 22, 2016, after jihadist gunmen attacked the city. Security forces battled for a second day with Islamic State gunmen who infiltrated Kirkuk in a brazen raid that rattled Iraq as it ramped up an offensive to retake Mosul.(Photo: MARWAN IBRAHIM, AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived in Baghdad on an unannounced visit Saturday, hoping to push Iraq to allow Turkey to play a role in the battle against the Islamic State for Mosul, but Iraq’s prime minister said no thanks.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said through a translator that Iraqi, Kurdish and other local forces can handle the battle for the country's second-largest city themselves.
“I know that the Turks want to participate, we tell them thank you, this is something the Iraqis will handle and the Iraqis will liberate Mosul and the rest of the territories,” al-Abadi said.
Iraqi forces in coalition with Kurdish peshmerga soldiers, American advisers and various ethnic minority paramilitary units began a large-scale offensive Monday to recapture Mosul, which was overrun by Islamic State militants in 2014.
While recognizing Iraq's sovereignty is key, the U.S. goal is to resolve disputes between partners in the coalition in order to fight the common enemy, Carter said, according to the Associated Press.
“I am confident that we can plan a constructive role there,” he told reporters.
Carter's visit comes two days after a U.S. service member, who worked with Iraqi special forces as an explosives-disposal specialist, was killed outside Mosul, the fourth death since the U.S. began military operations in the region in August 2014, AP reported.
In an apparent counter-attack, suspected Islamic State fighters stormed an Iranian-run power plant and police stations in the oil city of Kirkuk on Friday, in a possible diversion as Iraqi forces advanced on militant-held Mosul about 100 miles to the northwest.
At least 80 people were killed in the assault, mainly Kurdish security forces, and another 170 were wounded, according to Brig. Gen. Khattab Omer of the Kirkuk police. A sundown curfew has been imposed on the city.
Kurdish security forces recovered the bodies of 56 militants who took part in the attack, Omer said.
The assault was the result of a terrorist attack and not a military breach, al-Abadi said.
“Nearly all the terrorists who entered Kirkuk have been eliminated, and we have full control, except for maybe one area where they are being flushed out,” he said after meeting with Carter.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Office received reports that hundreds of families were forced out of villages and herded toward Mosul for possible use as human shields by the terror group.
“There is a grave danger that ISIL fighters will not only use such vulnerable people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Friday. “We know ISIL has no regard for human life, which is why it is incumbent upon the Iraqi Government to do its utmost to protect civilians.”
The militants forced about 200 families out of Samali and 350 families out of Najalfia on Monday, according to the human rights office. At least 40 civilians were shot dead in one of the villages outside Mosul, under a report the office is investigating.