Lloyd Austin – On Tuesday, the US press made an unexpected announcement, stating that a top White House official had arrived in Baghdad.
They accompanied US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on an unannounced visit to Iraq, when he claimed that US soldiers stationed there were ” ready to remain in Iraq.”
Lloyd Austin is the highest-ranking Cabinet member to visit Baghdad since the Biden administration began in 2020.
According to the press pool, Austin released a statement confirming his presence in Iraq.
Austin’s presence is meant to strengthen the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq as it strives to construct “a more secure, stable, and sovereign Iraq.”
Lloyd Austin’s visit to Baghdad comes days before the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq to overthrow dictator Saddam Hussein.
“We’re deeply committed to ensuring that the Iraqi people can live in peace and dignity, with safety and security and with economic opportunity for all,” said Austin.
“We’ll continue to harness the professionalism of the coalition’s diplomats and assistance experts and warfighters, as well as the incredible professionals in the NATO mission here.”
“We’ll continue to increase interoperability among our allies and partners, and we’ll continue working to accomplish this mission together.”
“Now, looking forward, US forces are ready to remain in Iraq at the invitation of the Government of Iraq,” continued Austin.
“And these forces are operating in a non combat, advise, assist, and enable role to support the Iraqi-led fight against terrorism.”
“This is a critical mission. And we’re proud to support our Iraqi partners.”
“We’re focused on the mission of defeating Daesh, and we are here for no other purpose, and threats or attacks on our forces only undermine that mission.”
The fight against ISIS
Iraq is an important ally in the United States’ ongoing effort to destroy ISIL.
The current campaign, on the other hand, is unique.
In Syria, US forces cooperated alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces and other partners.
The US military will give guidance and aid after the formal conclusion of the combat campaign in Iraq in 2021.
“The United States will continue to strengthen and broaden our partnerships in support of Iraqi security, stability, and sovereignty,” said Austin.
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Lloyd Austin had a conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani.
Austin is expected to meet with other high officials during his visit to Baghdad.
According to Lloyd Austin’s press pool, his meeting with Iraq’s prime minister was not filmed.
Likewise, al-Sudani hailed Austin’s visit as a continuation of engagement with the United States.
The establishment of Sudani Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani’s administration followed months of political deadlock and occasionally violent protests.
According to the prime minister’s office, al-Sudani told Lloyd Austin during their conversation that Iraq is eager to expand and cement its relations with the US.
Iraq will be critical in US attempts to curb Iranian influence in the region.
Iran has already moved to exert power over Iraq through proxy forces and Tehran’s influence in Baghdad Shia political organizations.
Prior to al-recent Sudani’s ascension to the position of Prime Minister, Shia Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was considered the favorite to take over the government after the most recent elections.
Al-Sadr was a vocal opponent of both Iran and the United States.
Nevertheless, opposition from rival parties contributed to his inability to form a coalition.
Lastly, al-Sadr’s failure offered a chance for al-Sudani, who has shown a willingness to deepen Baghdad’s connections with the United States, specifically Washington.
Lloyd Austin traveled from Baghdad to Erbil, Iraq’s northern Kurdish regional capital.
He met with Nechirvan Barzani, the Kurdistan Region’s President and Commander in Chief of the Region’s Armed Forces.
During a joint news conference, Nechirvan Barzani and Lloyd Austin emphasized the necessity of American help for Iraq and the Kurdish area.
Barzan underscored mutual interests and ideals, pushing the two closer.
Lloyd Austin stressed the importance of US-Kurdish Peshmerga partnership in the battle against ISIS.
“Through the Global Coalition to Defeat Daash (ISIS), we liberated more than 50,000 square kilometers from Daash (ISIS) and we freed more than 4.5 million Iraqis from their cruel grip,” said Austin.
Image source: CNN