U.S. President Donald Trump is hosting Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi for talks Thursday that the White House says will focus on Iraq’s stability and security and boosting the nation’s economy.
“Because we’re working towards economic prosperity as well as freedom from foreign meddling in its internal affairs, improved relationships with neighbors is also a critical part of the conversation,” a senior administration official told reporters ahead of the meeting.
The United States has about 5,000 troops in Iraq tasked with counterterrorism operations and training Iraq security forces.
A senior administration official said “there are no hard and fast timelines” for further reducing the U.S. military presence, but that the issue will “be part of the discussion as we evaluate what Iraqi security requirements are and what the United States believes it can do.”
Another topic on the agenda, according to the White House, is Iraq’s Kurdistan region, with an administration official calling it a “critical component of a stable, sovereign Iraq.”
“Our most acute conversation point in this visit is to make sure that the resources available to the Baghdad central government also find their way to the KRG,” the official said, referring to the Kurdistan Regional Government.
“There is an agreed-upon distribution of resources, and the KRG is part of that equation,” the official said.
Al-Kadhimi took office in May at a time of strained U.S.-Iraq ties.
Four months before he assumed office, a U.S. drone strike near the Baghdad airport killed top Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, prompting Shi’ite legislators to demand U.S. troops leave Iraq.
Ahead of Thursday’s White House meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Wednesday with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein for talks on diplomatic issues, energy, education, security and cultural relations.
The State Department said on the economic front the two countries are coordinating with international financial institutions to help Iraq cope with fallen oil prices as well as the coronavirus pandemic. The statement also said the two sides want to boost trade and investment, and work to increase Iraq’s domestic electricity and gas production.
The department said both the United States and Iraq recognize the need to improve access for humanitarian organizations inside Iraq.
Pompeo announced Wednesday the United States is giving an additional $204 million in humanitarian assistance to Iraqi citizens, Iraqi refugees and refugee hosting communities.
“We're committed to helping Iraq achieve economic prosperity, freedom from foreign meddling in its internal affairs, and improve relationships with its neighbors as well,” Pompeo said. “This is what the Iraqi people want too; a stable, prosperous, independent Iraq.”
Pompeo urged Iraqi officials to intensify efforts to contain pro-Iran militia groups.
Although Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State group three years ago, Islamic State sleeper cells continue to carry out attacks in northern Iraq.