barbara starr tour joseph votel airplane_00000522.jpg
barbara starr tour joseph votel airplane_00000522.jpg

Story highlights

ISIS attacks in the city on the rise

Top U.S. commander to visit troops

Baghdad, Iraq CNN —  

The U.S. commander of all troops in the Middle East, Central Command’s General Joseph Votel, arrived in Baghdad Thursday on an unannounced visit for meetings on how the war against ISIS is progressing.

Votel had said earlier this week that he is watching how Iraq’s government responds to the recent spate of ISIS attacks, and while he doesn’t see that shift in Iraq’s priorities yet, he called it a potential worry.

“There is a little concern that if this is not addressed quickly it could cause them (the Iraqi government) to have to take action to divert forces and divert their politics focus on that, as opposed to things like Mosul or finishing up their activities out in Anbar,” Votel said during a refueling stop Wednesday at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on his way to the region.

CNN is the only television network on the military plane carrying Votel, a four-star general, to the Middle East to meet with his commanders, the troops and regional military officials.

While ISIS is still committed to establishing a caliphate, Votel suggested the organization is moving back to its terror roots to try to regain momentum.

“We are seeing them see opportunities,” he said. “We have to respect our enemies and respect their ability to adapt and adjust on the battlefield.”

Votel called ISIS’ activities “abhorrent.”