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Chuck Hagel Lands In Iraq To Meet With Officials

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel landed in Iraq this morning. Hagel is scheduled to meet with Iraqi officials and U.S. commanders about the U.S.-led war against the so-called Islamic State.

This visit is of note because Hagel is the first secretary of defense to visit the country since President Obama ended American combat involvement in Iraq in 2011.

Since then, the U.S. has beefed up its military presence in Iraq to combat ISIS, which started an assault on the country over the summer.

The AP reports:

"In remarks to a group of U.S. and Australian soldiers, Hagel said the U.S. wants to help Iraq regain the territory it lost to Islamic State militants earlier this year, but said the only lasting solution must come from the Iraqis themselves.

"'In the end, that's where this all goes,' he said in remarks on an outdoor stage shielded by portable concrete walls at Baghdad International Airport.

"'Just as in Afghanistan, it is their country,' Hagel said. 'They have to lead. They are the ones that are going to have to be responsible for end results.'"

Reuters reports that Hagel said the U.S. will continue assisting and training Iraqi forces, but the key to long-term success will be an inclusive Iraqi government.

Reuters adds:

"Since taking office in September, Shi'ite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has worked to build alliances with Sunni tribes and also reached a deal on oil exports with the semi-autonomous Kurdish region after months of dispute.

"Hagel was due to meet Abadi and Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi during his visit."

In November, the White House announced Hagel would resign his post once his successor was named. Obama has nominated Ashton Carter to replace Hagel.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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