MESOP NEWS LATEST : KURDISH KRG OFFICIAL MET WITH DONALD TRUMP – Kurdish presence at coalition meetings doesn’t signal US policy change


By Rudaw 4 hours ago  – 24 March 2017 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The presence of a Kurdish delegation at this week’s US-led anti-ISIS international coalition meeting in Washington, D.C., shouldn’t be seen as a shift in US policy in regards to the Kurdistan Region, a US official indicated Thursday.  “I’m not going to draw comparisons,” said US State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner after being asked by a reporter if the presence of a Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) delegation at the talks represented a US policy shift from former President Barack Obama to the current Donald Trump.
Fuad Hussein, the Chief of Staff to the Kurdish president, attended the talks in Washington, met with Trump along with other top US officials, and the KRG’s presence was noted by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in his opening remarks on Wednesday.

Toner, who was deputy spokesperson during the Obama administration, reiterated continued US respect for the sacrifices and effectiveness of Kurdish Peshmerga in the fight against ISIS.He said: “We’ve been very clear in this administration and the previous administration our deep respect for the role that Kurdish fighters and – have played in the fight against ISIS, and we have great respect for the sacrifices and also great respect for what capable forces they are and the role that they played thus far.”
As the US-led coalition has assisted Iraqi and Peshmerga forces in retaking large swathes of land once held by the extremist group, the question of how the rebuilding of infrastructure will be paid for lingers.

Iraq and the Kurdistan Region have welcomed direct US assistance, while the US recently has called on coalition partners to increase their contributions.The State Department stated since 2014 coalition members have provided “more than $22.2 billion in stabilization, demining capabilities, economic support, and humanitarian assistance in Iraq and Syria.”
The US noted that the coalition expects to raise more than $2 billion for similar purposes in 2017.

The State Department highlighted the risk posed to civilians by the presence of landmines along the Iran-Iraq border, as well the risk landmines pose to civilians fleeing Mosul.
On Thursday the US stated it has invested more than $333 million in Iraq since 2003 to clear and dispose landmines and unexploded ordnance, including $33 during the past year through the State Department. The announcement comes as Trump’s proposed budget includes a 28-percent decrease in State Department funding.
Toner dismissed concerns that the defense and state departments aren’t on the same page, as their missions in war-torn areas often cross paths.

“Well, [Defense Secretary James Mattis] was here yesterday,” Toner said. “He’s aware of the challenges. I think there is no daylight between the way Secretary Tillerson thinks about the next steps or way Secretary of Defense Mattis does.