US defence secretary makes surprise visit to Baghdad


US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin landed in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Tuesday on a surprise visit barely a couple of weeks before the 20th anniversary of the US-led ground invasion that ousted Saddam’s regime and ushered in two decades of bloodshed that Iraq is only now beginning to exit.

“I’m here to reaffirm the US-Iraq strategic partnership as we move toward a more secure, stable and sovereign Iraq,” Austin took to Twitter to make the announcement as he landed.

In the run-up to the March 20 anniversary, Iraq has hosted a number of foreign officials, including the Iranian, Russian, and Saudi foreign ministers as well as the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

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Iraq’s Shiite majority has been leading the country under a confessional power-sharing system since US-led coalition troops toppled Saddam Hussein. Successive governments have maintained close relations with Shiite-led neighbour Iran, while maintaining ties with the US – considered an arch-foe of Iran – in a delicate balancing act.

Relations under the Donald Trump administration witnessed a sharp deterioration after the former US president authorised the assassination of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant, Hashed number two Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis in a drone strike on Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

Both the US and Iran offered enormous support during Iraq’s fightback against the Sunni extremists of the Daesh group, who overran swathes of northern and western Iraq in 2014.

Although Iraq announced the end of combat operations by US-led coalition troops at the end of 2021, some units still remain deployed for training purposes and to provide advice.



Salma Hussain is an MBBS doctor who loves to write on health-related topics. Apart from this, writing on sports and entertainment topics is her hobby. She is playing the role of an important writer in Arab Post.

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