Iraqi president says US and Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State should continue
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The United States and Iraq should continue their joint mission of fighting the Islamic State extremist group, Iraqi President Barham Salih said on Thursday.
“We have had an enduring relationship, and the United States has been a partner to Iraq and in the war against ISIS,” Salih said before a meeting with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos.
“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 neighbours,” Salih told Trump.
The Iraqi leader spoke of “challenging” and “difficult” times in the Middle East during the meeting – his first with Trump since the US killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes in Baghdad at the beginning of January.
A US-led military coalition battling Islamic State had suspended its activities in Iraq after the controversial killing, which prompted Iran to fire missiles at military bases hosting US personnel in Iraq.
On Wednesday, a top US general said the coalition has partially resumed its work supporting the Iraqi security services.
Alex Grynkewich, deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said the US continues to fly surveillance reconnaissance assets and fighter aircraft.
“Those types of partnerships are ongoing,” according to Grynkewich.
But the general said that much of the training of Iraqi forces is on hold as government talks are held over fully resuming the partnership.
Grynkewich said that US and coalition troops have not observed a significant uptick in Islamic State activities during the pause in operations.
He credited Iraqi forces with keeping pressure on the extremist group, but said “we certainly want to get back to providing that overall pressure.”
After the US strike on Soleimani, Iraq’s parliament in January voted to call for an end to the presence of foreign troops in the country. There are currently around 5,000 US soldiers stationed in Iraq. In response, Trump threatened sanctions on Iraq.
On Wednesday, the US president answered a question from reporters on whether he was still considering sanctions by saying: “We’ll see what happens because we do have to do things on our terms.”
He also said “we’ll see what happens” when asked about his plan for withdrawing troops from Iraq.