The Pentagon says it is compiling a list of Iraqi nationals who have aided the U.S. military, in an attempt to exempt them from President Donald Trump's 90-day ban on immigration from seven countries identified by the White House as "sources of terror."
Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis told reporters Monday that there are a "number of people in Iraq" who have worked alongside U.S. troops, "often doing so at great peril to themselves."
"We are ensuring that those who have demonstrated their commitment tangibly to fight alongside us and support us, that those names are known in whatever process there is going forward," Davis said.
The White House offered the Pentagon a chance to submit Iraqi names for exemption from the immigration ban over the weekend, Davis said. He added that the list would include names of Iraqis who have helped U.S. forces in the "past and present."
Nationals from the other six countries — Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia — are not included in the exemption list. The executive order, signed Friday afternoon, bans travelers from the identified Muslim majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days, while Syrian refugees have been banned indefinitely.
When asked how soon the exemptions could be presented to the White House, Davis said the Pentagon is "still in the process of assessing the EO [executive order] and compiling this list." He also declined to estimate the number of names that would be on such a list.
Pentagon officials would not comment on whether Secretary of Defense James Mattis had asked for the exemptions, saying that the nature of his counsel to the president is "private."
Among the concerns raised by the immigration ban is the fate of Iraqi pilots trying to enter the U.S. for training at U.S. bases. Davis told reporters that his understanding is that the pilots enter the U.S. "on a different kind of visa that isn't affected by this" executive order.