Performing Pentagon chief visits Baghdad to help Iraq, focus on Syria withdrawal

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Performing U.S. Protection Secretary Patrick Shanahan arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday for an unannounced go to throughout which he mentioned he would stress the significance of Iraqi sovereignty and broach the difficulty of the way forward for U.S. troops there.

Performing U.S. protection secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives in Kabul, Afghanistan February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Idrees Ali

President Donald Trump mentioned this month {that a} U.S. presence was wanted to watch Iran, which might overstep the U.S.-led coalition’s acknowledged mission in Iraq and Syria of defeating Islamic State.

“We’re in Iraq on the invitation of the federal government and our pursuits are to construct Iraqi safety functionality,” Shanahan informed reporters travelling with him on his first journey to Iraq.

“I wish to hear first-hand from them about considerations, the political dynamics that they’re dealing with after which primarily based on that we’ll clearly issue that into our planning.”

Shanahan is to satisfy leaders together with Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and also will focus on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria with U.S. commanders.

Trump brought on anger in Baghdad this month when he mentioned it was necessary to maintain a U.S. navy presence in Iraq in order that Washington might hold a detailed eye on Iran “as a result of Iran is an actual drawback.”

Iraq is in a tough place as tensions between its two largest allies, the US and Iran, improve.

Trump’s feedback prompted nearly common criticism from Iraq’s leaders together with Abdul Mahdi and raised questions concerning the long-term presence of some 5,200 U.S. troops within the nation 16 years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The troops are there as a part of an settlement with Baghdad with a selected mission of combating terrorism, and they need to persist with that, Iraqi President Barham Salih mentioned after Trump’s feedback.

Iran-aligned politicians in Iraq’s parliament used the uproar to reiterate their demand that the U.S. mission in Iraq be restricted and troop numbers lowered.

Requested whether or not U.S. troops in Syria might be moved to Iraq, Shanahan mentioned he could be having conversations on these subjects throughout his go to.

U.S. Military Basic Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. Central Command, mentioned on Monday he didn’t consider Washington would broadly improve general troop numbers in Iraq.


Throughout a visit to Iraq in December, during which he didn’t meet any Iraqi leaders, Trump mentioned the US had spent a “fortune” on the Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq and will maintain on to it.

He had earlier introduced he was pulling all 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria, a call that surprised allies and partly led to the resignation of former defence secretary James Mattis.

Trump additionally mentioned he anticipated a proper announcement as early as this week that the coalition preventing Islamic State had reclaimed all of the territory the militant group had held in Syria.

Shanahan stayed away from predicting a timeline as a result of climate and the presence of civilians might have an effect on it.

U.S.-led coalition warplanes hit a few of Islamic State’s final positions in japanese Syria on Monday as U.S.-backed fighters launched into pressed an offensive.

Like most senior U.S. intelligence and navy officers, Shanahan mentioned an Islamic State resurgence was a danger until there was a sustained effort.

FILE PHOTO: Performing U.S. Secretary of Protection Patrick Shanahan speaks throughout the Missile Protection Evaluate announcement on the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque//File Picture

“The observe on, the help to safety, that is the place we actually look to the coalition companions,” he mentioned.

The group was declared defeated in Iraq in 2017, however continues to wage small-scale rebel assaults in some areas.

The U.S. navy has already began withdrawing gear from Syria.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; enhancing by John Stonestreet

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