In a surprise visit, Vice President Mike Pence arrived to Iraq on Saturday to meet with U.S. troops stationed in the country and to reassure support among allied Kurdish forces.
Pence arrived to visit U.S. troops at the Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq, according to CNN. The Vice President and his wife Karen reportedly served turkey and other Thanksgiving fixings to those U.S. service members who would miss out on next week’s holiday back home.
Happy Thanksgiving from Iraq. @SecondLady and I are so honored to be with our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines here in Iraq! We are so proud of you and thankful for you all! pic.twitter.com/bzcM1fGgiG
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) November 23, 2019
“The President and your Vice President and the American people are behind you 100%,” Pence said in remarks to about 150 U.S. service members gathered at a hangar on the base.
Pence also sought to assure those troops the Trump administration was working to secure a pay raise for the military.
“Congress should have finished their work months ago but you know that partisan politics and endless investigations have slowed things down,” he told the troops.
A meeting with Nechirvan Barzani, the president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region was also on Pence’s agenda for the visit. Pence reportedly sought to reassure U.S. support for the Kurds amid a recent decision by President Donald Trump to withdraw U.S. troops in Syria.
The abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops came amid a Turkish military offensive in northern Syria. The October offensive reportedly saw numerous attacks against U.S.-allied Kurds by Turkish forces.
Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo worked to negotiate a ceasefire between NATO-allied Turkey and those who Kurdish forces who have also fought alongside U.S. forces in Syria. Despite the cease fire, concerns of continued Turkish attacks have persisted.
Barzani thanked Pence for the reassurance of support, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Barzani told Pence the visit “is an important indication of your continued support to Kurdistan and Iraq.”
“On behalf of President Trump, I also welcome the opportunity to reiterate the strong bonds forged in the fires of war between people of the United States and Kurdish people across this region,” Pence told Barzani.
Pence also spoke by phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi. The two reportedly discussed violent civil unrest and protests over corruption in Iraq and a lack of opportunities.
At least 320 people have reportedly been killed since the Iraqi protests first began in early October. Thousands more have also been wounded in the protests, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The protests have mostly occurred in the predominantly Shi’ite south part of Iraq.
Pence urged Mahdi to restrain the Iraqi government handling of the protests. Mahdi acknowledged that Iraqi security services have been accustomed to years of war and are not as used to handling civil unrest.