Pentagon head on unannounced Iraq trip ahead of 20th anniversary of invasion
Baghdad, Mar 7 (EFE).- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin landed in Baghdad on Tuesday on a previously unannounced trip ahead of the 20th anniversary of the United States-led invasion of the Middle East country.
“Wheels down in Baghdad. I’m here to reaffirm the US-Iraq strategic partnership as we move toward a more secure, stable, and sovereign Iraq,” Austin tweeted.
He also posted a clip of disembarking from a plane and being warmly received by a US military officer.
So far, the details of his Iraq trip are under wraps.
But the visit takes place less than two weeks before the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq that began in 2003 and overthrew the regime of dictator Saddam Hussein.
Austin is likely to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani, who recently supported the “indefinite” presence of US troops in Iraq in a Wall Street Journal interview after the Iraqi parliament sought the withdrawal of foreign soldiers.
Austin is on a Middle East tour, making him the highest-ranking Joe Biden administration official to visit Iraq shortly before the 20th anniversary of the US invasion.
He met with Jordan’s King Abdullah Monday and discussed regional security and violence in the occupied West Bank.
Austin’s Middle East trip is focused on addressing the escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine and tension related to Iran.
The assassination of powerful Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone arrack in Baghdad in January 2020 led to the end of the combat mission in Iraq and the withdrawal of a large military contingent from there.
But the US maintains around 2,000 troops for advisory and training purposes. EFE