SHAFAQNA– U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday met with Iraqi leaders in an unannounced Iraq visit as part of his tour to the Middle East.
Mike Pompeo traveled on Wednesday first to Baghdad, where he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul al-Mahdi, President Barham Salih, Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali al-Hakim and Speaker of the Council of Representatives Mohamed al-Halbousi. He then traveled to Erbil, where he met with members of the Iraqi Kurdistan government, CNN reported.
The elimination of ISIS and the need for Iraqi energy independence were also the subjects of a meeting between Pompeo and Iraqi President Barham Salih, the State Department said. The two men also discussed U.S. efforts to address Iraq’s “political, economic, and security challenges”, THE HILL reported.
Iraqi President Barham Salih said he wanted the United States to maintain its military presence in the country. About 5,200 U.S. troops are stationed there.
“We will need the support of the U.S.” Salih said. He said ISIS is defeated militarily, “but mission is not accomplished”, USA TODAY reported.
Pompeo then traveled to Erbil, where he met with members of the Iraqi Kurdistan government. During the stop in Erbil, Pompeo said he and Iraqi leaders discussed Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria, but he did not elaborate.
“We’re having conversations with them even as we speak about how we will effectuate this in a way that protects our forces, make sure that the Americans as we withdraw are safe and we will complete the mission of taking down the last elements of the caliphate before we depart,” Pompeo told the traveling press before departing Erbil.
Pompeo said the United States is committed to protecting Syrian Kurds, who helped fight ISIS in that country. He gave no details of how the administration would accomplish that. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who views the Kurds as terrorists, vowed to attack them once U.S. forces withdraw from Syria.
“It’s important that we do everything we can to make sure that those folks that fought with us are protected,” Pompeo said. “Erdogan has made commitments, he understands that.”
Erdogan flatly rebuffed a plea from Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, not to harm the Kurds. “We cannot make any concessions,” Erdogan said Tuesday after Bolton met with Turkish officials.
Pompeo didn’t answer a reporter’s question on whether the United States was committed to keeping troops in the country.
Pompeo’s visit was not previously announced by the State Department, but White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in December that Pompeo would make a stop in Iraq. It comes just weeks after Trump’s trip to the country, during which the President did not meet with Iraqi elected officials. That visit was denounced by parliament members, major Iraqi political parties and key players in the current Iraqi government.