Iraqi leader says Trump ‘more engaged’ in terror fight


Washington: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said after talks with President Donald Trump that the new US administration appears more focused on the fight against terrorism than its predecessor.

Abadi met Trump at the White House on the 14th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq and two days before a major Washington ministerial meeting on the way ahead in the war against the Islamic State group.

Afterward, Abadi said he expected US assistance to the Iraqi forces fighting to drive Islamic State fighters from the northern city of Mosul to “accelerate” under Trump more quickly than would have happened under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

“I think this administration wants to be more engaged in fighting terrorism. I sense a difference in terms of being head-to-head with terrorism,” Abadi told an audience at the United States Institute for Peace.

Earlier, Trump said the operation against the Islamic State group in Mosul was “moving along” and he questioned whether the United States under Obama should have pulled US combat troops out of the country.

“We should never, ever have left,” he said. Previously Trump had supported the 2009 withdrawal, and he ran for office last year arguing that the United States should never have invaded Iraq in the first place.

“We will figure something out. I mean we have to get rid of ISIS,” he added, using an alternate acronym for the IS group. “We’re going to get rid of ISIS.”

The Iraqi authorities launched an offensive in October to retake Mosul from the IS group with the support of US-led coalition air strikes.

Government forces retook the eastern part of Mosul in January before setting their sights on the more densely populated west of the city, the last major urban center the IS group holds in Iraq.

Trump shied away from any substantive discussion in public, but the presence of his top economic aide at a meeting in the cabinet office indicated that energy and economic ties were also on the agenda.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — a former ExxonMobil executive — made a rare public appearance at the White House.