US Vice President Pence visits troops in Iraq

US Vice President Mike Pence.(File photo: AP)

US Vice President Mike Pence’s unannounced landing at Ain al-Asad base - his first visit to Iraq as vice president - came nearly a year after President Donald Trump made his own surprise trip to the sprawling complex.

Trump drew criticism for the lightning-fast visit, in which he briefly met with troops but did not see any Iraqi officials.

That visit was veiled in such secrecy there was speculation that most Iraqi authorities had not been informed the president was coming.

Iraqi officials told AFP that Pence will not meet top Iraqi leaders during his surprise trip to the country.

Pence visited US troops at the Ain al-Asad base in western Iraq and spoke to Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi by phone, two Iraqi government sources said.

“There won’t be a meeting as they had a phone call,” one of the sources told AFP.

Later on, Pence traveled to Erbil to meet with Iraqi Kurdistan President Nechirvan Barzani, The Associated Press reported.

The visit was meant to reassure the US allies in the fight against ISIS after Syrian Kurds suffered under a bloody Turkish assault last month following the Trump-ordered withdrawal.

The office of President Barham Saleh said it was not aware Pence was coming to Iraq and there was no meeting planned, and the US embassy in Baghdad told AFP it had no details to share.

The US has 5,200 troops stationed in Iraqi bases across the country.

Washington led the 2003 invasion of Iraq that toppled then-dictator Saddam Hussein, dismantled its security forces and then attempted to rebuild the country’s institutions.

After years of working closely together, ties between the two countries are currently at their “coldest”, US and Iraqi officials have told AFP.

Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi, in office for the past year, has yet to visit Washington, and Trump has not met top officials in Baghdad.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:54 - GMT 06:54
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