U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit Tuesday to the Iraqi capital. This visit comes just days before the 20th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that resulted in the ousting of Saddam Hussein. During the visit, he vowed to continue the fight against the Islamic State group, until the extremists had been defeated.
Later it was revealed that Austin had held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and Defense Minister Thabet Muhammad Al-Abbasi while in the area.
Al-Sudani’s office said he and Austin discussed cooperation between their countries in the fight against IS. The Iraqi premier reaffirmed his government’s “keenness to strengthen and consolidate relations with the United States of America at various levels and fields.”
However unexpected the visit was, Austin did tweet a picture of his arrival with a short statement reaffirming the U.S. Iraq partnership was strong.
Wheels down in Baghdad. I’m here to reaffirm the U.S.-Iraq strategic partnership as we move toward a more secure, stable, and sovereign Iraq. pic.twitter.com/hJVJjefuyv
— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) March 7, 2023
“We’ll continue working to accomplish this mission together. Through the global coalition to defeat Daesh, we liberated more than 50,000 square kilometers from Daesh and freed more than 4.5 million Iraqis from their cruel grip,” Austin said, using an Arabic name for IS. “The United State remains committed to this fight in support of Iraq’s security and the security of the entire region.”
Austin also said that U.S. forces are ready to remain in Iraq at the invitation of its government, adding that these forces are operating in a non-combat and advisory role in support of the “Iraqi-led fight against terrorism.”
“This is a critical mission and we’re proud to support our Iraqi partners,” said Austin, one of the most senior Biden administration officials to visit Iraq in recent years.
“We continue to believe that Iraq’s greater integration with its Arab partners in the region will deliver increased stability, security and prosperity, and it will pay dividends not only for Iraqi citizens, but for all people of the region,” Austin said, referring to Iraq’s improving its relations with Arab countries.
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