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Pompeo in reassurance mission to Iraq over US Syria pullout plans

AFP  |  Baghdad 

US sought to reassure Iraqi officials on Wednesday that remained committed to the fight against the Islamic State group as he pressed a tour of regional allies troubled by US plans to withdraw from

Pompeo's talks on an unannounced visit come less than two weeks after drew criticism for failing to meet a single Iraqi during a surprise trip to US troops at in

The US top was in the to urge allies to continue to confront the "significant threats" posed by and jihadists despite Trump's shock decision last month to withdraw all US troops from

In Baghdad, Pompeo met a raft of senior officials including and

Pompeo ducked reporters' shouted questions about US pullout plans, but Saleh replied that wanted to remain engaged.

"We will need the support of the US," he said, expressing "gratitude to the US for support over the years".

"is defeated militarily, but (the) mission is not

accomplished," Saleh added, using an alternative acronym for IS.

Pompeo flew in from and was also due to visit Cairo, Manama, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Riyadh, and on his longest trip since taking office last year.

Ahead of his tour, the US top said the campaign to destroy the jihadists' self-styled "caliphate" in war-battered had been "enormously successful".

"And I am confident that we will continue to ensure that the kind of rise that had under the (Barack) doesn't occur again," he told the travelling press.

Trump used his lightning December 26 visit -- his first to US troops in a conflict zone since being elected -- to defend his Syria withdrawal plans and declare an end to America's role as the global ""

He caused a political storm when he announced the pullout claiming IS had been defeated despite continued deadly fighting between US-backed forces and the jihadists in

Trump has since rowed back, vowing the withdrawal will be done in a "prudent" way.

Members of his administration have gone further, saying that the timeline of any pullout remains dependent on events on the ground.

There are many in Iraq, particularly in pro-factions, who would like an accelerated timetable for a US withdrawal from too.

But Trump has stressed that he expects US troops to remain in Iraq, from where they can carry out operations in neighbouring Syria if necessary.

Any failure to root out IS from border districts of Syria where they retain a presence poses a security concern for

The 600-kilometre long frontier is porous and districts on the Iraqi side were the last from which Baghdad's forces ousted the jihadists.

Iraq declared victory over IS in December 2017, but the jihadists retain a network of sleeper cells in major cities and continue to conduct hit-and-run attacks from mountain or desert hideouts.

On Tuesday, a car bomb killed two people in the city of Tikrit, north of the capital, police said.

The Trump administration's insistence on treating as a threat as big or even bigger than IS also poses major difficulties for Iraq.

Since the US-led invasion of 2003, has become a political force in Iraq with influence rivalling that of

too provided support for Iraq's fightback against the jihadists after they advanced to within striking distance of the capital in 2014.

And Iraq has developed a dependency on imports from its eastern neighbour that is difficult to break.

Iraq suffers from a of power that leads to routine outages lasting much of the day in many areas that have prompted angry protests.

It depends on imports from Iran of both and gas to generate it, to keep up even existing supply.

Washington has granted waivers from the crippling unilateral sanctions it reimposed on last year after Trump pulled out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal agreed by his predecessor

But members of his administration have put increasing pressure on the to stop seeking waivers and call in US firms to provide an alternative.

For Baghdad, that is politically unthinkable and Iraqi officials have called for a longer-term special status instead.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, January 09 2019. 18:20 IST