Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a surprise visit to Iraq on Tuesday, amid his wider, multiday trip to the Middle East.
“Wheels down in Baghdad,” Austin tweeted after landing in the Iraqi capital. “I’m here to reaffirm the U.S.-Iraq strategic partnership as we move toward a more secure, stable, and sovereign Iraq.”
Austin reportedly met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and Defense Minister Thabet Muhammad Al-Abbasi while in Baghdad and emphasized America’s commitment to helping fight the militant Islamic State group, also known as Daesh, The Associated Press reported.
“We’ll continue working to accomplish this mission together,” Austin said, per the AP. “Through the global coalition to defeat Daesh, we liberated more than 50,000 square kilometers from Daesh and freed more than 4.5 million Iraqis from their cruel grip.”
“This is a critical mission and we’re proud to support our Iraqi partners,” he added.
The visit comes just weeks ahead of the 20-year anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein.