US Secretary of Defense in Iraq on an unannounced visit
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin makes an unplanned visit to Baghdad as part of his tour to Jordan, Egypt, and "Israel."
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made a surprise visit to Baghdad on Tuesday, as part of the Middle East tour, which started in Jordan, and will continue to Egypt and "Israel".
Austin said in a tweet on Twitter, which he attached to a video of the moment he arrived in Iraq, that he is "here to reaffirm the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq."
Wheels down in Baghdad. I’m here to reaffirm the U.S.-Iraq strategic partnership as we move toward a more secure, stable, and sovereign Iraq. pic.twitter.com/hJVJjefuyv— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) March 7, 2023
It is noteworthy that this visit comes before the twentieth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, and that Austin was the last commander-in-chief of US forces in Iraq.
It also came in light of a wide diplomatic movement in recent weeks, with Iraqi officials successively recieving the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia, and then the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, in early March.
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An official said it aims to show Washington's commitment to maintaining its military presence there, nearly 20 years after the US-led invasion of Baghdad.
A senior US defense official told reporters that he aims to make a pledge to the Iraqis to maintain the presence of US forces, but not just "about a military tool," adding that the US is interested in a partnership with Iraq.
Austin's tour took off in Jordan on Sunday, aiming to assure key allies of the "US commitment to the region" despite Washington's focus on Russia and China. It is noteworthy that Iraq had announced in January 2021 the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, while maintaining the relationship with foreign forces in the field of training and empowerment.