Top US officer on first visit to Iraq since troop exit
BAGHDAD: Top US military officer General Martin Dempsey flew to Baghdad on Tuesday, the highest-ranking American to visit Iraq since the withdrawal of US troops eight months ago.
Dempsey arrived from Afghanistan, where his C-17 aircraft was damaged by an insurgent rocket attack on the tarmac overnight at Bagram air base.
The four-star general was forced to use another plane for his trip to the Iraqi capital, where he was due to meet Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his Iraqi counterpart, army chief of staff Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari.
Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told AFP before landing that the United States still had an important role to play in Iraq but under much different circumstances.
“We still retain significant investment and significant influence. But now it’s on the basis of partnership and not on the basis of ownership,” he said.
Seeking to open a new chapter, Dempsey stressed that he had come to build a dialogue with his Iraqi counterparts and explore expanding military ties, but not to make demands.
Earlier on his tour Dempsey said that he believed Iraqi leaders wanted to bolster relations with the American military.
Asked about the rocket attack at Bagram, Dempsey smiled and shrugged, saying perhaps it was a “lucky shot” by the Taliban.