Iraq and US discuss economy and military co-operation

America says it is committed to advising, enabling and assisting Iraqi forces in their fight against ISIS

Iraqi and US delegations discuss economy and military co-operation. Photo: Prime Minister of Iraq's Office
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Brett McGurk, the US National Security Council's co-ordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, arrived in Baghdad on Monday on an official visit to strengthen relations with Iraq.

Mr McGurk, who was joined by Special Presidential Co-ordinator for Global Infrastructure and Energy Security Amos Hochstein, met Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani.

“The meeting focused on discussing the overall relations between Iraq and the United States and ways to strengthen and develop them at various levels and fields to serve the interests of the Iraqi and American peoples,” said a statement issued by Mr Al Sudani's office.

Mr Al Sudani “highlighted the ability of our security forces to encounter terrorism and sustain the stability achieved thanks to the great sacrifices made in the land of Iraq,” it added.

For its part, the US delegation confirmed President Joe Biden’s “commitment to the Strategic Framework Agreement with special emphasis on co-ordination and programmes to support the government of Iraq’s reforms in the areas of energy, infrastructure, and climate to benefit the Iraqi people,” the US embassy in Baghdad said.

Mr McGurk affirmed the “ongoing US commitment to advise, enable, and assist Iraqi forces in their fight against ISIS, and to ensuring that ISIS can never again regenerate in Iraq and Syria”.

This week, Mr Al Sudani said his country still needs US troops to maintain security.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he said the “elimination of ISIS needs some more time”, when asked about the US troop presence, which has been authorised by the Iraqi government to train the Iraqi army since 2014.

There are about 2,500 US soldiers now in Iraq, down from more than 5,000 during the war against ISIS between 2014 and 2018.

The small contingent was deployed to Iraq following a withdrawal of US forces in 2011 after eight years of occupation upon request from the Iraqi government.

At its peak, the force numbered 170,000 in 2007, when Iraq was beset with sectarian violence and fighting between international coalition forces and insurgents.

In mid-2014, ISIS overran large parts of Iraq and Syria, declaring a “caliphate” in occupied territory.

Backed by a US-led international coalition, Iraq announced victory against ISIS in late 2017 after three years of gruelling fighting that left many of the occupied cities in ruins.

However, the terrorist group's cells continue to mount hit-and-run attacks, particularly in vast desert regions of northern and western Iraq near the border with Syria.

Updated: January 17, 2023, 7:41 AM