Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced stop in Baghdad on Monday via Amman, Jordan, as Islamist militants consolidated their territorial gains in northern Iraq and seized several border crossings with Syria and Jordan. Kerry’s visit came after State Department officials told reporters on June 22 the threat to Baghdad from the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant appeared to be not “nearly as immediate” as perceived last week. “I think the progress towards Baghdad has definitely slowed,” said one of the officials during a briefing in Amman. “There’s kind of a static situation … far north of Baghdad,” said the official. Meanwhile, as US military advisors move into Iraq, the United States has also intensified surveillance flights over Iraq, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby. “We are now flying enough flights, both manned and unmanned, that it’s around-the-clock coverage,” he said. Those assets are focusing on parts of Iraq that are of “greatest interest,” he said on June 20. (Kirby transcript) (State Department background briefing)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.