WASHINGTON D.C. – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the Trump administration seems more willing to fight terrorism than the last one, after a meeting with President Trump this week.
“I think this administration wants to be more engaged in fighting terrorism. I can sense a difference in terms of being head-to-head with terrorism,” al-Abadi said at the United States Institute for Peace Monday evening after his meeting with Trump. “I think they’re prepared to do more to fight terrorism, to be more engaged.”
However, he said that he did not necessarily mean more U.S. troops in Iraq, something he acknowledged the U.S. public is wary of.
“I don’t think, now, the public opinion especially in the U.S., and in other places, would encourage sending troops in large numbers. So I think terrorism, you don’t defeat it by military force only. There are better ways for defeating terrorism and I think we can do it,” al-Abadi said.
The Trump administration is currently undergoing a review of a plan on how to defeat ISIS, which may entail sending more troops overseas to defeat the terrorist group. There are currently 5,262 U.S. forces authorized to be deployed in Iraq on a full-time basis, with hundreds more deployed on a temporary basis.
Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by U.S. airpower and artillery, are closing in on ISIS in Mosul, its last major stronghold in Iraq. Still, fighting is expected to continue in some pockets in Iraq even after Mosul is retaken, and ISIS could revert to terrorist-style attacks throughout the country.
A car bomb attack in southwest Baghdad on Monday killed more than 20 people.
A White House readout of Trump’s meeting with al-Abadi suggested a long-term military partnership between the two countries.
“As Iraqi forces consolidate gains against ISIS/Da’esh, the two leaders agreed that the United States and Iraq will pursue a long-term partnership to decisively root out terrorism from Iraq and strengthen the Iraqi military and other key institutions,” a readout said, using a derogatory Arabic term for ISIS.
“Together with our partners in the 68-member Global Coalition against ISIS/Da’esh, the United States will continue training and support for Iraqi forces to bring about the terrorist group’s decisive and enduring defeat and further build the capabilities of Iraqi forces,” it said.
Cooperation against terrorism will extend beyond the military realm, the readout said.
“Recognizing that terrorism cannot be defeated by military might alone, the two leaders also agreed to promote a broad-based political and economic partnership based in the Strategic Framework Agreement,” it said.
“In the months ahead, United States and Iraqi leaders will consult on steps to deepen commercial ties and promote investment, expand collaboration in the energy sector, and seek new opportunities for cultural and educational cooperation,” it said.
Al-Abadi also discussed closer bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries with Vice President Mike Pence during a breakfast meeting on Tuesday.
“Both leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to the long-term partnership between the United States and Iraq grounded in the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement,” a readout of their meeting said.