Concluding term, Joseph Votel reviews US-Iraqi counter-terror efforts
U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. Central Command, held several meetings with top Iraqi officials on Sunday, as he is concluding his term.
During the meetings, he stressed the U.S. support to the Iraqi people in the latter’s war against ISIS. Votel also affirmed the U.S. commitment to protect Iraqi sovereignty.
Votel affirmed his country’s commitment to support Iraq and develop the capabilities of its security forces in terms of training and providing weapons, during his meeting with Iraq’s President Barham Salih, according to a statement by the latter’s office.
Salih said that the elimination of terrorism requires the cooperation and commitment of the international community, through helping rebuilding the cities destroyed by terrorism.
He also affirmed the importance of enhancing cooperation between Iraq and the US, and the contribution of the US to train and provide weapons to the Iraqi army.
The meeting stressed the commitment to protect Iraqi sovereignty, which requires that foreign forces should be only present in the Iraqi territory upon the Iraqi government invitation, and within the agreed goals of helping Iraq fight terrorism.
Meeting Abd Al-Mahdi
Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi, who is also Commander-in-Chief discussed with Votel efforts to eliminate ISIS remnants in Syria.
This came after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his surprise decision in December to withdraw his 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.
According to a statement issued by Abd al-Mahdi’s office, the meeting discussed cooperation in the fight against ISIS, the positive developments in Iraq, the Iraqi government’s keenness to enhance security and stability, the reconstruction of liberated cities, as well as efforts to eliminate ISIS remnants in Syria.
Iraqi Chief of Staff, General Othman Al-Ghanimi praised the great efforts exerted by Votel, through providing all forms of support in Iraq’s fight against terrorism, a statement by Iraq’ Defense Ministry said.
Iraqi officials have met with Votel on Sunday, in order to achieve an outcome at ending the battle against terrorism, expel terrorist gangs and achieve stability in Iraq and the region, the statement reads.
The partnership with the US will continue in order to support military operations to eliminate ISIS remnants, as well as to develop the capabilities of Iraqi forces in terms of training, arming and border controlling, the statement added.
Although Votel made no remarks to reporters upon landing in Iraq, Reuters News Agency reported that he was expected to get battlefield briefings on the final push to retake the remnants of Isis that was once vast territory in Syria.
Votel previously ruled out that President Trump’s withdrawal of more than 2,000 troops from Syria would significantly alter US troop levels in Iraq, where the United States has more than 5,000 forces.
Those force numbers would stay “more or less steady,” he confirmed. Source