US President Barack Obama appointed Brett McGurk, a long-time White House adviser on Iraq, as his new envoy to the coalition against the “Islamic State” (IS), the White House announced on Friday.
Obama described McGurk as one of his “most trusted advisers on Iraq.”
McGurk replaces General John Allen, who headed the 65-member coalition for over a year. He worked as Allen’s deputy and was mostly involved in gathering the support of Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq to take back the Iraqi city of Ramadi from IS.
President Obama expressed his “profound gratitude” to Allen for meeting the challenge “with tremendous ability and courage.”
The battle against IS has become more complex after Russia decided to launch airstrikes in Syria. US officials say that Moscow’s target is not the militant group but rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
It is unclear whether the change in the coalition’s command is a result of new dynamics in the region.
More anti-IS raids expected
On Thursday, a US-backed military operation involving US and Kurdish forces freed 70 prisoners from the captivity of IS in the northern Iraqi town of Hawijah. US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said Friday that a large cache of intelligence was also seized during the raid.
“I expect we’ll do more of this kind of thing,” Carter told reporters. “One of the reasons for that is that you learn a great deal because you collect the documentation, you collect various electronic equipment and so forth … So the sum of all this will be some valuable intelligence,” he added.
Carter also said that he decided to order the rescue mission after intelligence reports showed IS was planning to kill hostages.
“When we find opportunities to do things that will effectively prosecute the campaign, we’re going to do that,” Carter said. “Raids are one of those categories and I suspect that we will have further opportunities in the future and we are going to avail ourselves.”
shs/bw (AP, AFP, Reuters)