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German Defense Chief Visits Iraq’s Kurdish Region, Eyes New Strategy

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (file photo)

The German defense minister has visited her country’s troops in Iraq's Kurdistan region to determine the forces’ progress in the fight against Islamic State (IS) extremists and to prepare for a shift in strategy.

The visit on February 10 by Ursula von der Leyen comes as the German government is planning to switch its Iraqi strategy from training Kurdish forces to stabilizing the entire country through "capacity building," although details on the plan have not been revealed.

She said the role of Germany's forces in Iraq must evolve to meet the "needs of Iraq" after a "period of transition" following victory over the IS militant group in most parts of the country.

Germany has about 150 soldiers stationed near Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region.

The country’s mission in the region formally ends in March.

"Everyone knows that IS has been beaten but not completely defeated yet," von der Leyen said.

Earlier in the day, the German defense chief met with the Iraqi leadership, including Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

She said Iraqi leaders expressed desires for a "commitment from Germany" for "other forms of engagement," including training and logistics.

A previous planned trip to Iraq by a German leader -- Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel – was called off late last year after the Iraqi government in Baghdad blocked his visit to the Kurdish autonomous region.

Based on reporting by Deutsche Welle and dpa