Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk Visits Iraq

Between August 19-23,‎ Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Brett McGurk visited Iraq to meet with senior Iraqi government and security officials.  Accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman, Mr. McGurk met with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Speaker of Parliament Saleem al-Jabouri, and other senior political, religious, and security figures.  The Special Presidential Envoy also accompanied the U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who visited Iraq on August 22, to meet with Prime Minister Abadi, Minister of Defense Hiyali, and Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) President Massoud Barzani.

Special Presidential Envoy McGurk praised the Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga for their successes on the battlefield, including the hard-fought liberation of Mosul.  He also wished the Iraqi Security Forces the utmost success in the battle to free Tal Afar, which began earlier this week.  Mr. McGurk reiterated our opposition to the September 25th referendum and urged KRG officials and the central government to establish a new framework for dialogue on a host of issues, including their future relationship, emphasizing that the United States is prepared to fully back this process.

On July 23, joined by the U.S. Consul General in Erbil, Kenneth Gross, Special Presidential Envoy McGurk and Ambassador Silliman visited Telskuf in Ninewa Province to meet local government officials and visit with Chaldean families who fled when ISIS took control of the town for eight days in 2014.  In 2016, ISIS attacked the town again, killing over two dozen Kurdish Peshmerga and a U.S. Navy SEAL, who was embedded with the units on an Advise and Assist mission.

In late 2016, displaced members of Telskuf, a predominantly Chaldean Catholic community 19 miles north of Mosul, began to return home.  The Chaldean families acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead but expressed determination to restore life to their communities after ISIS. To date, over 800 families have returned to their homes in Telskuf.

McGurk commended Prime Minister Abadi on his outreach to Saudi Arabia that resulted in a historic breakthrough in relations between the two countries.  McGurk noted that the United States will continue to support Iraq’s integration into the region and development of new commerce routes to benefit all Iraqi communities recovering from the war against ISIS.

In his meetings, Special Presidential Envoy McGurk reaffirmed the Coalition’s and the United States’ commitment to provide assistance to the Iraqi campaign to defeat ISIS on the battlefield and to provide essential humanitarian and stabilization support as the battles are won.  To date, over two million Iraqis displaced by the war against ISIS have returned to their homes, including over 250,000 to Mosul.  McGurk urged the international community to continue to support Iraq in its efforts to care for those still displaced and to create the conditions for their safe return to their homes.