Senior US general visits Iraq for security talks
BAGHDAD - Agence France-Presse
A handout picture made available by the Iraqi Prime Minister's office shows Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (R) meeting US Vice Chief of the Army, General Lloyd J. Austin III (L) in Baghdad on May 14, 2013. AFP photoGeneral Lloyd Austin, the officer who oversaw the US military withdrawal from Iraq, visited Baghdad for talks on defence cooperation and security issues including Syria, the US embassy said on Thursday.
Austin, who now heads the US Central Command, "visited Baghdad May 14 to 16, 2013 to discuss US-Iraq defence cooperation and regional security issues, including the situation in Syria," the embassy said in a statement.
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are battling rebels in neighbouring Syria in a conflict that has spilled over into Iraq on several occasions and reportedly killed more than 94,000 people.
The US general met with officials including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, acting defence minister Saadun al-Dulaimi, national security advisor Falah al-Fayadh and top Iraqi military officer General Babaker Zebari.
Austin was the final commander of United States Forces - Iraq, overseeing the withdrawal of US troops from the country, which brought to a close an almost nine-year war that killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, thousands of US soldiers and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
The withdrawal was completed when the last convoy of US troops crossed into Kuwait in the chilly early morning of December 18, 2011.
But more than 10 years after US-led forces toppled late dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq is still plagued by violence that has killed more than 200 people per month so far this year, and political conflicts that have paralysed the government.