President Donald Trump welcomed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi to the White House on Monday to talk about the fight against the Islamic State and to smooth over any lingering hurt feelings about the administration’s original decision to include Iraq in its travel ban.
With Iraq pressing its military offensive to retake Mosul, its second largest city, from the Islamic State, the visit comes at a critical time, with some predicting Iraqi forces may be able to proclaim that the country has rid itself of the terrorist group by the end of the year.
“We’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq,” said Kenneth Pollack, senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy.
Trump made defeating ISIS and eliminating “radical Islamic terrorism” a major part of his campaign.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the two governments remained committed to working together to help Iraq reach stability.
“The Iraqi people have been a brave and steadfast partner in our shared fight against ISIS, al Qaida and radicalism,” Spicer said. “The president will speak with the prime minister about how that partnership will help defeat ISIS and move into a new era in which Iraq is a force for stability and peace and a prosperous Middle East.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accompanied Trump as he met with Abadi.
We’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq. Kenneth Pollack, Brookings Institution
U.S.-Iraqi relations were strained in late January when Trump issued his first travel ban, including Iraq among the seven countries whose citizens were forbidden temporarily from traveling to the United States, allegedly until new vetting procedures could be implemented. The other countries were Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
While it was cast as intended to make the country safer, some experts argued the move was likely to weaken…