WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2017 —
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Iraq and praised the Iraqis' efforts to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in separate meetings with three top Iraqi officials yesterday, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said.
Mattis was in Iraq as part of a five-day overseas trip to the Middle East and Europe to enhance strategic partnerships, discuss the campaign to defeat ISIS and bolster the U.S. commitment to NATO partnerships.
Mattis thanked Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for his strong wartime leadership, which has enabled the Iraqi security forces to achieve victory in Mosul and set ISIS on a path to a lasting defeat, White said.
"The secretary reaffirmed U.S. dedication to the U.S.-Iraq security partnership, and committed to continued support to improve security for the Iraqi people and deny ISIS terrorists safe haven in Iraq," she added.
Encouraging Continued Kurdish Cooperation
In his meeting with Kurdish Regional Government President Masoud Barzani, Mattis thanked him for his strong leadership of peshmerga forces and being a supportive partner in operations to defeat ISIS.
"The secretary congratulated President Barzani on the success in Mosul, and noted the liberation of that city was only possible due to the strong cooperation between Baghdad and Irbil," White said. "To maintain this cooperation, the secretary encouraged President Barzani to engage in a sustained dialogue with Prime Minister Abadi and keep the focus on maintaining the momentum against ISIS."
In his meeting with his Iraqi counterpart, Defense Minister Erfan al-Hayali, Mattis expressed his appreciation for the Iraqi security forces' "determined and heroic efforts" to liberate Iraq from ISIS, White said.
"The secretary reaffirmed the strong strategic defense relationship between the U.S. and Iraq," she added, "and reassured Minister Hayali that the U.S. would continue as a steadfast partner in the fight against ISIS."