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Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq

BAGHDAD — The appearing United States protection secretary, Patrick M. Shanahan, arrived in Baghdad early Tuesday for an unannounced seek advice from with Iraqi leaders to speak about the American troop presence within the nation and the struggle in opposition to the stays of the Islamic State.

Mr. Shanahan’s go back and forth coincides with plans for an American troop withdrawal from Syria and questions on whether or not a few of the ones troops may as an alternative be primarily based in Iraq, which might be used as a base for operations in Syria.

His quest was once difficult — or, possibly, made vital — by way of an interview President Trump gave this month suggesting American troops might be despatched to Iraq to regulate neighboring Iran, a fellow Shiite state.

There are nonetheless round 2,000 American troops in Syria, lots of them particular operations forces preventing Islamic State militants along Syrian Kurdish infantrymen. They have enormously reduce into the Islamic State’s territory, save one or two wallet of militants within the some distance east of Syria. But Mr. Trump has ordered the troops to depart the preventing to different avid gamers, together with the Syrian Army, the Russians who’re preventing with them, and the Turks.

Military leaders have resisted the order, each as a result of they are saying that the Islamic State nonetheless poses a risk and retreat now would imply forsaking the Syrian Kurds, whom the Americans have in lots of circumstances armed, skilled and fought along.

Turkey regards the Syrian Kurds, the Syrian Democratic Forces, as the army arm of the P.Okay.Okay., an outlawed Kurdish terrorist team, in Ankara’s eyes. The Turks have made little effort to cover their intent to pressure them some distance from the Turkish border, and perhaps out of Syria fully.

As he left Washington, Mr. Shanahan didn’t say whether or not he would ask Iraq to host one of the crucial particular operations troops now preventing in Syria. However, there was dialogue about that risk in army circles each in Baghdad and Washington. From there, theoretically, they may assist end off the Islamic State and provides strengthen to the Syrian Kurdish troops.

There are recently about five,200 American troops in Iraq, engaged basically in coaching the Iraqi army and on occasion serving to Iraqi troops by way of offering reconnaissance and air strengthen of their struggle in opposition to Islamic State opponents in Iraq. Although there was a drastic drop within the selection of Islamic State assaults in Iraq, there are nonetheless a minimum of one or two each day.

Among a number of competing concepts for the United States forces coming to Iraq from Syria, commanders appear to desire leaving a number of hundred particular operations forces close to the Syrian border so they are able to have simple get admission to to Syria.

But issues had been difficult by way of Mr. Trump’s commentary that he sought after to stay American forces in Iraq to regulate Iran. Since then, Iraqi politicians, many sympathetic to the Iranians, had been up in fingers, pronouncing overseas executive has no proper to use Iraqi territory to assault a neighboring state.

In reaction, Iraqi politicians speeded up discussions of a regulation that will strictly prohibit the selection of American troops allowed, their actions and the length in their keep.

The antagonism is hardly ever sudden, as Iran has been actively lobbying in Iraq and achieving out to each Shiite and Sunni Muslims on a number of problems. The Iranians are keen to steer clear of any build up within the United States troop presence in Iraq or having extra American troops posted close to its border. Currently, just a few small contingents of Americans are energetic in jap Iraq, the place they’re serving to the Iraqi Army struggle wallet of Islamic State resistance.

Until Mr. Trump visited Al Asad Air Base in December, highlighting the American presence within the nation, the American army had saved a low profile, running carefully with the Iraqi Army in opposition to the Islamic State. However, Mr. Trump’s seek advice from, which didn’t come with a gathering with Iraqi political figures, even though he spoke to the high minister by way of phone, angered Iraqis who noticed his perspective as presumptuous.

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