- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 9, 2015

Vice President Joseph R. Biden said Thursday the “jury’s still out” on Iraq’s future, but said the new government in Baghdad and U.S. air forces have stopped the territorial gains of the Islamic State terrorist group.

“The jury’s still out, that’s the truth,” Mr. Biden said at the National Defense University in Washington. “It’s not over yet. But the momentum is in the right direction.”

His speech comes before new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi makes his first visit to Washington next week. President Obama, who withdrew all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, has sent about 3,000 U.S. troops back to Iraq as military advisers since last year and has ordered air strikes to counter the rampaging Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.

The Islamic State still holds about one-third of Iraq and Syria, but Iraqi ground forces backed by U.S.-led air strikes retook the city of Tikrit this week. Mr. Biden, who referred to the terrorist group by its acronym ISIL, chided critics for saying that Iraq “is doomed to split apart.

“Eight months ago, ISIL was on the offensive everywhere in Iraq,” Mr. Biden said. “But today in Iraq, ISIL has lost large areas that it used to dominate. ISIL’s momentum in Iraq has been halted and in many places … has been flat-out reversed.”

He said there is still “a long fight ahead.”

“I don’t want to paint an overly rosy picture. But ISIL’s aura of invincibility has been pierced, and that’s important,” Mr. Biden said.

He praised Mr. Abadi’s leadership for forming a more inclusive government among Sunnis, Shia and Kurds to wage a more coordinated fight against the Islamic State.

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