WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House of Representatives
Speaker John Boehner visited Iraq over the weekend to express
U.S. commitment to the country's postwar success, despite a
rancorous Washington budget debate over spending cuts.
The Ohio Republican lawmaker's office said Sunday that
Boehner led a five-member House delegation that met with Iraqi
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and senior military officials. It
provided few other details.
The delegation focused on future cooperation between the
U.S. and Iraqi governments and the need to protect both Iraq's
sovereignty and U.S. interests.
"Our first priority must be ensuring that the remaining
46,000 U.S. forces and their civilian counterparts that are
working with the government of Iraq and advising and assisting
the Iraqi security forces have the resources and support they
need to complete their mission," Boehner said in a statement.
"We must protect the economic, political, and security
progress that has been made," he added.
The U.S. force in Iraq, which once numbered more than
150,000 troops, was reduced last year as part of a bilateral
agreement under which the remaining military presence would
withdraw by year's end.
But Washington has recently stepped up pressure on Iraq to
decide whether troops should stay to help fend off a
Boehner's statement did not mention the budget debate in
Washington, where the threat of a government shutdown two weeks
ago briefly raised concerns about delayed paychecks for U.S.
troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Friday, the speaker presided over House approval of a
Republican plan for fiscal year 2012 that would slash spending
by nearly $6 trillion over the next decade. The plan would
increase Pentagon funding by $5 billion and includes $158
billion for U.S. military missions abroad. But it cuts $504
million for diplomatic efforts overseas.
U.S. forces invaded Iraq in 2003 on faulty intelligence
suggesting that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had
weapons of mass destruction that could endanger U.S. security
after al Qaeda's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. U.S. officials found
neither the weapons nor any credible al Qaeda link. But an
anti-American insurgency later took shape, fueled in part by
militants who became aligned with al Qaeda.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
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