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Iraq: US forces ready to continue fight against Islamic State, says Austin

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin greeting a US military officer as he arrives to Baghdad.
Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin greeting a US military officer as he arrives to Baghdad. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews
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Austin's visit to Iraq comes days before the 20th anniversary of the US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003.

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US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit Tuesday to the Iraqi capital where he vowed to continue the fight against the Islamic State group until its extremists are defeated.

Austin was greeted on touchdown in Baghdad by Major General Matthew McFarlane, the US commander in Iraq, which is home to hundreds of American troops helping in the fight against the militant Islamic State group.

The Pentagon chief also said that American forces are ready to remain in Iraq at the invitation of its government, adding that these forces are operating in a non-combat and advisory role in support of the “Iraqi-led fight against terrorism.”

“This is a critical mission and we’re proud to support our Iraqi partners,” said Austin, one of the most senior Biden administration officials to visit Iraq in recent years.

"Our defence cooperation against Daesh [the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State] is a key pillar of our bilateral relationship. And the United States remains committed to this fight in support of Iraq's security and the security of the entire region."

Since the US-led invasion in 2003 that removed longtime dictator Saddam Hussein from power, Iraq has been a point of friction between the United States and Iran. Tehran has widely expanded its influence in Iraq over the past 20 years.

Despite their defeat in Iraq in 2017, IS militants and their sleeper cells are still launching attacks in the country, as well as in neighboring Syria. IS has killed and wounded dozens of Iraqi troops over the few past months.

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