ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The White House’s top Middle East official in a meeting with the Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani on Monday stressed the continuation of the United States’ support for the Kurdistan Region and Iraq in eradicating Islamic State (ISIS), despite the end of the US combat mission in the country.
Brett McGurk, White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, “reiterated that the United States will continue to support Iraq and the Kurdistan Region,” and emphasized the reliance that Iraq and the Kurdistan Region can place on the US partnership to confront and eliminate ISIS, a statement from the Kurdistan Region presidency said.
Barzani deemed the timing of McGurk’s visit to be “important”, coinciding with the shifting roles of US and allied forces in Iraq, commenting that the United States’ continuing commitment and support to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region “sends an important message” as the US-led combat mission shifts to an advisory role.
“Both sides agreed that ISIS is a real danger, and in order to confront and defeat it, Iraq still needs the continued support of the international coalition,” the statement said, as well as noting the importance of coordination between Iraqi forces and parties to maintain stability and security.
Iraq’s political process and negotiations between parties, Erbil-Baghdad relations, the formation of a new federal government, the security, military and economic situation in the country and ISIS attacks were also discussed in the meeting.
McGurk in November told the Manama Dialogue conference in Bahrain that the United States is in the region to stay and will strengthen alliances with its partners. “The United States is not going anywhere. This region is too important, too volatile, too interwoven with American interests to contemplate otherwise,” he said.
The end of the US combat mission in the country was announced last week, although the top US commander for the Middle East, General Frank McKenzie, has said that the US will still provide air support and other military equipment in Iraq’s fight against ISIS.
“Coalition forces remaining in Iraq will be present at the invitation of the Government with a mission limited to advising, assisting and enabling the Iraqi Security Forces to ensure ISIS can never resurge,” a White House statement said on Monday.
“This transition was made possible because of the tremendous progress achieved by Iraqi Security Forces, including the Peshmerga, in leading the fight against ISIS.”
The US-led Global Coalition was formally established in October 2014 by the US Department of Defense after ISIS took control of large swathes of territories in Iraq and Syria. The group was territorially defeated in Iraq by Iraqi and Kurdish forces and the US-led Coalition in December 2017.
The end of the US combat mission in Iraq comes as ISIS attacks increase, threatening civilian lives and terrorizing Kurdish and Iraqi fighters. The terror group has killed 22 Peshmerga members and two Iraqi soldiers since November 27.