U.S. Secretary of Defense arrives in Iraq on an unannounced visit

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Iraq on Tuesday for an unannounced visit that an official said was aimed at demonstrating Washington's commitment to maintaining its military presence there.

Austin, the most senior official in US President Joe Biden's administration to visit Iraq, was the last commander-in-chief of US forces in Iraq after the invasion.

"I'm here to reaffirm the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq as we move toward a more secure, stable, and sovereign Iraq," Austin said.

The United States currently has 2500,900 troops in Iraq and an additional <> troops in Syria to help advise and lend a helping hand to local forces in the fight against the Islamic State.

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, said: "What the Iraqis will hear from him is a pledge to keep our forces present, but it's not just about the military tool. The United States is very interested in a strategic partnership with the government of Iraq."