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Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin talks troop presence in surprise Iraq visit

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani is playing a delicate balancing act with pro-Iran factions as Washington keeps a low profile for its military advisers in Iraq in order to subdue the Islamic State.
Lloyd Austin in Baghdad

WASHINGTON – More than eleven years after he led the last US battalions out of Iraq, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin landed in Baghdad on Wednesday to discuss the future of the US troop presence in the country with Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani.

Following the meeting, Austin said that the current 2,500 troops in the country as part of the US-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State were “ready to remain” there at the behest of the Iraqi government.

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