Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Brett McGurk returns to Washington today after an eight-day visit to Baghdad, Erbil, Sulaimaniyah, and the Mosul front at Khazir in Iraq, and Ankara, Turkey. The focus of the visit was to discuss progress in the campaign against ISIL, with emphasis on ensuring stability in liberated areas.
In Baghdad, Mr. McGurk met with President Masum, Prime Minister al-Abadi, Speaker al-Jabouri, and other senior political and security officials. He commended the heroism of Iraqi Security Forces and expressed condolences for the sacrifices of these brave soldiers, as well as the civilians who have lost their lives in acts of ISIL terrorism. He also reviewed support to Iraq by the U.S. and other Coalition partners, including training, equipping, advising, and assisting Iraqi forces, as well as ensuring stabilization resources for liberated areas. He noted, for example, that a Coalition supported program has cleared more than 20,000 kg of explosive material in Ramadi alone, and that these programs have enabled hundreds of thousands of citizens to return home in Anbar and elsewhere in Iraq. Overall, more than 1.2 million Iraqis have now returned home to liberated areas.
In Erbil and Sulaimaniyah, the Special Presidential Envoy met with IKR President Masoud Barzani, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, Vice President Kosrat Rasul, and PUK Politburo member Herro Talabani. He praised the performance and sacrifices of the Kurdish Peshmerga, and welcomed the unprecedented cooperation between Peshmerga and Iraqi Security Forces in the ongoing Mosul operation. He also encouraged all Kurdish political parties to settle their differences and maintain the unity that is essential for a strong and flourishing Iraqi Kurdistan Region. Mr. McGurk also met with Turkmen leaders from Tal Afar to review political plans for the stabilization of their historic city and discussed Coalition-supported training for diverse local units to hold the ground once ISIL is defeated.
Mr. McGurk also traveled on the eastern axis of the Mosul offensive to meet with members of the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi Army, and review their progress in the advance towards Mosul. In all of his meetings, including at the most forward Peshmerga position east of Mosul, he offered his thanks on behalf of the United States and the rest of the Coalition for the sacrifices that made possible this success against ISIL, emphasizing that they are fighting on behalf of both Iraq and the entire world in this effort. He later met with the Governor of Ninewa Province, Nawful Agoob, to review stabilization and humanitarian programs for liberated neighborhoods, and announced the immediate distribution of $32 million in Coalition funds for electricity, water, medical, and other stabilization projects, designed to facilitate the rapid return of IDPs to their homes as soon as they choose to do so.
Mr. McGurk later traveled to Ankara for meetings with senior officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Presidential Palace. In these meetings, he reviewed the situation in Syria, and offered condolences for the recent loss of Turkish soldiers on the ground in Syria while fighting our common enemy, ISIL. Mr. McGurk commended the efforts of Turkey to seal its border against the infiltration of ISIL terrorists, which is important for protecting our NATO Ally, Turkey, as well as our allies and partners in Europe, and our own homeland in the United States. Finally, he reviewed the progress of the Euphrates Shield operation inside Syria and emphasized the importance that all forces on the ground in these areas focus on the common threat of ISIL.