U.S. lawmakers visit Turkey to discuss IS threat

U.S. lawmakers visit Turkey to discuss IS threat
6 years ago

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WASHINGTON -- A U.S. congressional delegation including two senators was in Turkey on Tuesday as part of a regional tour focused on operations against the Islamic State (IS) and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria.

The delegation, led by Senator Tim Kaine, was initially kept secret due to security concerns. However, Kaine's office announced on Monday that the delegation would travel to Turkey, including a visit to Ankara. Some reports have said that the U.S. lawmakers will meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan while in the capital, but the state-run Anadolu news agency did not mention any meeting with Erdoğan in its morning schedule announcement. 

The U.S. delegation, which includes Senators Kaine and Joe Donnelly, as well as Representatives Tulsi Gabbard, Jim McGovern, Stephen Lynch, Brian Higgins and Peter Welch visited Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan before arriving in Turkey on Tuesday. 

Kaine's office said in its statement that the delegation traveled to Erbil, the seat of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and met with KRG President Masoud Barzani and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani as well as a group of community leaders. 

"President Barzani and Prime Minister Barzani thanked the U.S. and Coalition partners for critical airstrikes and noted the growing threat from IS," the statement said, adding that, “the delegation emphasized the importance of close Erbil-Baghdad ties and commended the leaders for the Peshmerga's success against IS and for their support to internally displaced persons.”

Kaine said, “The appreciation expressed for American support was notable, particularly in Erbil, where [US] President [Barack] Obama's decision to initiate airstrikes last August was recognized as critical to the [KRG's] survival."

Senator Donnelly said on Monday that IS continues to pose a "serious threat" to the Middle East, the U.S. and its allies around the world. With more than 3,000 US troops in Iraq and more on the way, Donnelly said, it was critical to hear directly from the commanders on the ground and Iraqi allies -- Shia, Sunni and Kurdish -- about the current strategy.

"We also discussed what role the U.S. and our coalition partners in the region should play going forward,” Donnelly stated.