United States Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander met with top Iraqi officials last week to underscore America's commitment to its alliance with the country and to defeating the Islamic State terrorist organization, the Department of Defense confirmed on Tuesday.
Wallander also signed a memorandum of understanding with the minister of peshmerga affairs in the Kurdistan region, describing the parameters by which the US will continue supporting Kurdish fighters against ISIS.
The assistant secretary also met with Iraqi Defense Minister Jumah Inad Sadun and other defense officials to talk about augmenting the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces and extending cooperation to combat new threats and increase interoperability.
In Irbil, Wallander met with the president of Iraq's Kurdistan region and commander in chief of the peshmerga Nechirvan Idris Barzani, as well as other Kurdish officials.
"For decades, we have worked together based on shared objectives and a common commitment to the mandate that all people deserve dignity, security and the right to seek a better future."Celeste Wallander, US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
"For decades, we have worked together based on shared objectives and a common commitment to the mandate that all people deserve dignity, security and the right to seek a better future," Wallander said during the signing ceremony for the memorandum.
ISIS is America's top priority in the region
The Pentagon emphasized that the primary threat in the region is ISIS.
"Since 2014, the US-led coalition has supported Iraq's fight against ISIS," Wallander noted. "Together, we liberated more than 50,000 square kilometers from ISIS control, including critical infrastructure and population centers in Iraq's Kurdistan region, freed more than 4.5 million Iraqis from ISIS terrorism, and provided our Iraqi-Kurdish partners with recovery and stabilization support."
The Pentagon noted that although ISIS no longer holds territory, it continues to target civilians in both Iraq and neighboring regions.
It said that the memorandum acts as a framework for the US commitment to backing reforms by the Kurdistan Regional Government to “modernize” its military.
"We must continue to work together to protect the gains made against ISIS and set the conditions for the next phase of the fight by denying ISIS even the smallest opportunity to resurge," Wallander added. "This MOU will guide the Department of Defense's future assistance to the peshmerga, which is a pillar of the department’s broader ‘D[efeat]-ISIS' partnership with the government of Iraq."