Acting Pentagon chief makes surprise Baghdad visit

Acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan made an unannounced visit to the Iraqi capital on Tuesday (February 12th), AFP reported Wednesday.

Shanahan, who flew in from Afghanistan on his first foreign tour since taking office, held talks with Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and top military advisers, as well as Lt. Gen. Paul LaCamera, the commander of the international coalition battling the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).

Shanahan later said his meeting with Iraq's premier had "a very good energy".

"I made very clear that we recognise their sovereignty, their focus on independence and that we are there at the invitation of the government," he said.

The two spoke about Iran "indirectly... in the context of Iraq's independence", he said, adding that Abdul Mahdi had stressed the need for Baghdad to maintain good relations with both its neighbours and the US.

A senior Pentagon official had earlier told journalists travelling with Shanahan that Washington's "main partnership and military activity in Iraq is the de-ISIS mission".

Washington was also pressing its allies to repatriate their nationals captured and taken prisoner during the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the official said.

"We think coalition members need to take responsibility for their citizens who are fighters. It has been a message we have delivered time and time again. And we are seeing hopeful progress," he said.

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