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Trump, Iraqi president agree on need for continued US troop presence

Donald Trump and Iraqi President Barham Salih (The White House/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih have agreed on the need for U.S. military to maintain its presence in the Middle Eastern country, the White House says following a meeting of the two in Switzerland.

“The two leaders agreed on the importance of continuing the United States-Iraq economic and security partnership, including the fight against [the Islamic State terror group],” the White House said on January 22.

“President Trump reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to a sovereign, stable, and prosperous Iraq.”

The two presidents met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos — their first meeting since the United States killed a top Iranian commander, Major General Qasem Soleimani, in Baghdad, angering many Iraqi politicians and leading to a call by the country’s parliament to expel U.S. troops.

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Before the meeting, Salih said that Washington and Baghdad “have had an enduring relationship, and the United States has been a partner to Iraq and in the war” against Islamic State.

He later told Trump that “this mission needs to be accomplished, and I believe you and I share the same mission for a stable, sovereign Iraq that is at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbors.”

Since the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq has attempted to balance relations with Washington and Tehran, which maintains strong influence with Shi’ite militias, although recent street protests have expressed anger about foreign influence in the country.

Separately, U.S. Major General Alexus Grynkewich, the No. 2 commander for the international anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria, said the extremist group has been weakened but that a resurgence is possible should the United States leaves Iraq.

He told a Pentagon news conference that the extremists “certainly still remain a threat. They have the potential to resurge if we take pressure off of them for too long,” although he said he did not see a threat of an immediate comeback.

“But the more time we take pressure off of them, the more of that threat will continue to grow,” he said.