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Coalition chief meets Iraqi Kurdistan president as Baghdad agitates against US presence

The Pentagon said it is in dialogue with Iraq’s government over the future of the US troop presence in the country as Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani faces pressure to expel American troops.
Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani meets with commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, Maj. Gen. Joseph Votel, on Jan. 9, 2024.

WASHINGTON — The top commander of the US-led military coalition in Iraq and Syria met with the president of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, in Erbil on Tuesday as pressure builds in Baghdad to put a timeline on the eventual departure of coalition forces in the country. 

US Army Maj. Gen. Joel Vowell met with Barzani to discuss recent drone attacks by Iran-backed militias in the Kurdistan Region as well as efforts to protect coalition forces and diplomatic officials in Iraq, according to Barzani’s office.

Why it matters: Vowell’s meeting with Barzani comes less than a week after a US drone strike killed a senior Iran-backed militia in Baghdad, threatening to spark a new row with Iraq’s central government.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani last week said he would initiate diplomatic proceedings to begin the process of setting a deadline for the eventual withdrawal of coalition forces, of which there are more than 2,500 in Iraq in the wake of the multinational US-led campaign against the Islamic State group. 

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