BAGHDAD, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Washington is committed to a strong military and defensive partnership with Baghdad given regional challenges, a visiting U.S. defense official said.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter met in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and acting Defense Minister Saadoun Dlimi.
George Little, a spokesman for the Defense Department, said Carter said Iraq was an important regional partner given the mutual security interests in the region.
"The visit stressed the importance of the United States defense and security relationship with Iraq and reiterated the U.S. commitment to that relationship," said Little in a statement on Carter's visit.
Carter told U.S. troops stationed in Kuwait this week that the Defense Department wasn't abandoning its commitment to the Middle East now that the Iraq war is over and the Afghan conflict is drawing to a close.
With the Syrian crisis and lingering concerns over Iran, there is still a need for an "enduring" military presence in the region. The fragility of the political situation in the region after the Arab Spring, he added, was a reflection of the "reality of instability in this region."