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US, Iraq defense chiefs discuss post-Islamic State strategy

Congress has long sought answers as to how the Pentagon plans to prepare Iraq’s military forces to stand on their own after the defeat of the Islamic State. This week, the Biden administration took a first step.
Iraqi security forces deploy near the gate of the green zone in Baghdad during a demonstration marking Labour Day on May 1, 2023, to demand a law establishing a salary grid to reduce pay inequalities for around 3 million government employees in the country.

More than four years after the Islamic State surrendered its final bastion along the Iraq-Syria border, top Pentagon officials sat down with their Iraqi counterparts this week to lay the groundwork for the next decade of US military support to Baghdad.

The meetings, led by Iraqi Defense Minister Thabit Muhammad al-Abbasi and Celeste Wallander, the Pentagon’s assistant secretary for international security affairs, included Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, members of the US Joint Staff, as well as representatives from US Central Command, the National Security Council and the State Department.

Why it matters: This week’s dialogue marked a belated step by the Biden administration toward unifying US government agencies' approaches to enabling Iraq’s military to stand on its own.

“We would want to partner with them as we partner with militaries across the rest of the region,” Dana Stroul, the Pentagon’s Middle East policy chief, told reporters prior to this week’s meetings.

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