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Acting Secretary Stresses Iraqi Sovereignty, Security in Visit to Baghdad

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Feb. 14, 2019) -- On his way to Brussels earlier this week for meetings with his NATO counterparts, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan talked with reporters traveling with him about his visit to Baghdad.

In Iraq, Shanahan met with Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. The two discussed issues related to Iraqi politics and sovereignty.

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"A very good energy in that meeting," Shanahan said. "I was pleased that it was very interactive dialogue."

Sovereignty, Security, Stability

During that meeting, the defense secretary said, he reiterated U.S. recognition of Iraqi sovereignty and a focus on security.

"I made very clear that we recognize their sovereignty, their focus on independence and that we're there at the invitation of the government and that our role there is to advise and assist and to grow the -- not just the capability of the Iraqi security forces but also the capacity." he said.

Security stability is fundamental to economic growth in Iraq, Shanahan said. "In his position in the country, economic growth is so important," he said of the prime minister.

The two also discussed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. "We talked about how we can generate more capacity and capability for the Iraqi security forces, and in his view, the success that's been realized over time."

U.S. Forces

Shanahan also met in Iraq with Army Lt. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, and discussed the movement of U.S. forces out of Syria.

The defense secretary also visited Afghanistan, where he met with Army Gen. Austin S. Miller, commander of NATO's Resolute Support Mission and U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

"I really enjoyed my time with General Miller and having a chance to meet his team," Shanahan said. "When you think of words that stick in your mind, 'opportunity' was the one I took away from my visit with General Miller."

Shanahan said he was impressed with the work Miller had been doing in Afghanistan related to development of the Afghan commandos. The secretary said success there provides "leverage" for the ongoing peace negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban. The U.S. is represented there by Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation.

"So when you think about the command force, the Afghan commando force ... I think of it as a real opportunity, because the work the commando force, the special forces is providing is really driving this negotiating opportunity," Shanahan said.

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