Acting Pentagon chief starts unannounced visit to Iraq

FILE PHOTO – Acting U.S. defense secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives in Kabul, Afghanistan February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Idrees Ali

Baghdad ( – Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan started on Tuesday an unannounced trip to Iraq, where he is set to discuss with Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi the future of U.S. troops in the country.

Speaking to reporters following his arrival in Baghdad, Shanahan said that the visit came at an invitation of the Iraqi government to discuss how to build Iraqi security capability.

“We are in Iraq at the invitation of the government and our interests are to build Iraqi security capability. I want to hear first-hand from them about concerns, the political dynamics that they are facing and then based on that we will obviously factor that into our planning.”

In December 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of 2,000 American troops from Syria, ending a military campaign that largely helped eliminate Islamic State militants there.

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