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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Addresses Media in Erbil, Iraq, on March 7, 2023

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III:  Mr. President, it's been great to see you today. And it's great to be back in Erbil.  

For decades, we have worked shoulder to shoulder, including through some very, very difficult times, from Operation Provide Comfort to our ongoing and shared fight against Daesh.
Working together, the United States and Iraq, including the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, have taken great strides to restore Iraqi sovereignty.

Through the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh, we have liberated more than 50,000 square kilometers from the nightmare of Daesh and freed more than 4.5 million Iraqis. So let me applaud the invaluable contributions to this fight made by the Kurdish Peshmerga, as part of Iraq's Security Forces.  

Now, I should underscore that U.S. forces are ready to remain in Iraq, at the invitation of the Government of Iraq, to support the Iraqi-led fight against Daesh. And we're glad to be able to support your forces and defend the Iraqi people.  

I also want to express my support for the Memorandum of Understanding that the Department of Defense signed last year with your Ministry of Peshmerga. That memorandum affirms our readiness to continue providing security assistance to your forces while we work together on institutional reforms.  

Daesh continues to threaten the lives and livelihoods of Iraq's citizens, so our continued cooperation is essential. And so is the Kurdish Peshmerga's coordination with the Iraqi Security Forces, including on Joint Brigades.  

Unfortunately, Daesh is not the only threat that this region faces. The United States condemns the repeated cross-border attacks from Iran. These attacks violate Iraqi sovereignty, put Iraqi lives in danger, and hold the Iraqi people back. 

The United States will continue to stand with the people of Iraq. For the country of Iraq to realize its full potential, Erbil and Baghdad must work together for the good of all Iraqis. And Kurdish leaders must put aside their divisions and come together to build a secure and prosperous Iraqi Kurdistan region.  

And so Mr. President, thanks again to you and your team for having us. And thanks for such a great discussion today. We look forward to continuing to strengthen our partnership even further.

Thank you Mr. President.