Pompeo in reassurance mission to Iraq over US Syria pullout plans

Pompeo in reassurance mission to Iraq over US Syria pullout plans

Baghdad: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reassure Iraqi officials on Wednesday that Washington remained committed to fighting the Islamic State group, as he tours regional allies troubled by US plans to withdraw from Syria.

Pompeo's unannounced visit comes less than two weeks after President Donald Trump drew criticism for failing to meet a single Iraqi official during a surprise Christmas trip to US troops at an air base in western Iraq.

The US top diplomat is in the Middle East to urge allies to continue to confront the "significant threats" posed by Iran and militants despite Trump's shock decision last month to pull all US troops from Syria.

In Baghdad, Pompeo met a raft of senior officials including Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi and President Barham Saleh.

He underlined "US support for the new Iraqi government's efforts to deliver stability, security and prosperity to all Iraqis," a US official said.

Pompeo also "discussed the recent territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria and the continuation of our cooperation with Iraqi Security Forces to ensure ISIS's lasting defeat throughout the region."

He ducked reporters' shouted questions about US pullout plans, but Saleh replied that Baghdad wanted Washington to remain engaged.

"We will need the support of the US," he said, expressing "gratitude to the US for support over the years".

"ISIS is defeated militarily, but (the) mission is not accomplished," Saleh added, using an alternative acronym for IS. Pompeo flew in from Amman and was also due to visit Cairo, Manama, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Riyadh, Muscat and Kuwait City on his longest trip since taking office last year.