Defense

Top general: New executive order should reflect ‘very strong partnership’ between US, Iraq

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The general commanding the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) said Wednesday that he would want President Trump’s new executive order on refugees to reflect nothing less than the “very strong partnership” between the United States and Iraq.

“Iraq is our partner and ally,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said at a briefing. “This nation is fully mobilized in this war alongside of us. They’ve invited us into their country to help them. They are protecting us here, and we’re fighting this enemy that threatens all of our countries together.

“So I would prefer personally not to see anything that would reflect on that except that we have a very strong partnership. I think I’ll just leave it at that.”

{mosads}Townsend added later that he wouldn’t elaborate on his personal thoughts on Trump’s executive order because he did not know what would be in the final version.

Townsend’s comments come after reports that Iraq will be left off a list of countries from which travel to the United States is temporarily banned in a new executive order due later this week.

Iraq was on the list in the original executive order signed in January. The inclusion meant Iraqi translators who helped U.S. troops were caught in the ban. It also prompted the Iraqi parliament to vote for a reciprocal ban, though Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declined to enforce it.

Experts have said the slight to Iraq threatened to undermine the fight against ISIS.

In his Wednesday briefing, Townsend said he appreciated Iraqis’ “muted” and “level-headed” response to the original executive order.

“I deal with Iraqis in the Iraqi security forces,” he said. “They are military people like me, or they’re in police forces. And by and large, they said, ‘Hey, we have a war to fight. That’s political business; not our concern. Let’s keep focused on the fight.’ So I appreciated that reaction.”

Townsend also said it was “helpful” that Abadi declined to enforce a reciprocal ban on Americans coming to Iraq.

“His main point was we have important work to do here, the United States and Iraq, in the fight against ISIS in this region and we can’t let anything disrupt or distract us from that,” Townsend said of Abadi. “So that was the initial reaction, which I found to be helpful.”

Now, Townsend said, Iraqis are waiting to see the new order.

“They were relieved when the executive order was suspended, and now, now they’re waiting to see how that may play out here in the future,” he said. “And we’re waiting to see how that plays out ourselves.”

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