US senator Lindsey Graham meets Iraqi PM Mustafa Al Kadhimi in Baghdad

The conservative American politician has argued for a continued US presence in Iraq

Senator Lindsey Graham was in Iraq to visit US troops on the occasion of America's independence day on July 4. AFP
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US Senator Lindsey Graham was in Baghdad on Monday for a meeting with Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi.

The Republican politician, who called for additional US reinforcements to Iraq in 2015 to fight ISIS and an increase in the US presence from 3,000 to 10,000 personnel, said he was there to visit American forces on his country's independence day on July 4.

Iraq said discussions would focus on security co-operation with the US, with reconstruction aid a the top of the agenda.

Since the near defeat of ISIS in 2017, the US has slightly reduced its military footprint in Iraq and there are about 2,500 US troops remaining, alongside several small contingents from other countries, training Iraqi forces in the continuing fight against the remnants of the extremist group.

“It is a great day to be an American and spend time with the brave men and women who keep us safe,” Mr Graham said on Twitter.

The Iraqi prime minister's office said that during the meeting, Mr Al Kadhimi “welcomed the delegation and expressed willingness to strengthen bilateral relations and ways to develop the relations in economic, cultural and educational areas, in such a way that serves the interest of the Iraqi and American peoples”.

Last week, USAID, the main US government aid and reconstruction agency, requested about $160 million for projects currently being developed in Iraq.

“The requested funds will support inclusive economic growth programming, encourage the development of strong democratic institutions and processes, and assist the government of Iraq in responding to shocks like Covid-19 and the climate crisis,” the US government said.

It said the funds were also being spent to assist communities “recovering from the devastation caused by ISIS, including women, youth and marginalised populations” disproportionately affected by the conflict.

Iraq's government said that during the meeting, Mr Graham affirmed Washington's unlimited commitment to providing long-term assistance to Iraq, and support enabling the Middle East country to address its security, economic, and social priorities.

The US senator was also due to meet Iraqi President Barham Salih and Parliamentary Speaker Mohammed Al Halbousi later on Monday.

Updated: July 05, 2022, 8:09 AM