Pompeo in reassurance mission to Iraq over US Syria pullout plans

Pompeo in reassurance mission to Iraq over US Syria pullout plans

BAGHDAD
Pompeo in reassurance mission to Iraq over US Syria pullout plans

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets with Iraqi President Barham Salih, in Baghdad on Jan. 9.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Iraq on Jan. 9 in an unannounced stop on his Mideast tour meant to promote the White House's position on Iran and the fight against the ISIL amid U.S. plans to withdraw from Syria.

In Baghdad, Pompeo met a raft of senior officials including Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi and President Barham Salih.

Pompeo ducked reporters' shouted questions about U.S. pullout plans, but Salih replied that Baghdad wanted Washington to remain engaged.

"We will need the support of the US," he said, expressing "gratitude to the US for support over the years."

"ISIS is defeated militarily, but (the) mission is not accomplished," Salih added, using an alternative acronym for ISIL.

The U.S. top diplomat was in the Middle East to urge allies to continue to confront the "significant threats" posed by Iran and jihadists despite U.S. President Donald Trump's shock decision last month to withdraw all US troops from Syria.

Pompeo flew in from Amman and was also due to visit Cairo, Manama, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Riyadh, Muscat and Kuwait City on his longest trip since taking office last year.

Ahead of his tour, the U.S. top diplomat said the campaign to destroy the jihadists' self-styled "caliphate" in war-battered Syria had been "enormously successful".

"And I am confident that we will continue to ensure that the kind of rise that ISIS had under the (Barack) Obama administration doesn't occur again," he told the travelling press.

Trump has since rowed back, vowing the withdrawal will be done in a "prudent" way.

Members of his administration have gone further, saying that the timeline of any pullout remains dependent on events on the ground.

There are many in Iraq, particularly in pro-Iran factions, who would like an accelerated timetable for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq too.

But Trump has stressed that he expects U.S. troops to remain in Iraq, from where they can carry out operations in neighboring Syria if necessary.

Mike Pompeo, Iraq, Baghdad