Top US General in Baghdad for talks

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff met with Iraqi officials today in the first such visit by America’s top general since troops withdrew from the country in December.

General Martin Dempsey was expected to discuss military cooperation between the two countries during a brief stay in Baghdad.

Iraqi state TV aired footage showing him meeting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The Iraqi leader’s media adviser, Ali al-Moussawi, described the talks as positive. He said the men discussed the state of bilateral relations, arms purchases and military cooperation. He would not elaborate.

Gen Dempsey also met with Lieutenant General Robert Caslen, head of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq, according to Gen Dempsey’s spokesman, Colonel David Lapan. That office is an arm of the US Embassy and is responsible for facilitating Iraqi arms purchases and training the Iraqis how to use and maintain the weapons.

The US Embassy did not immediately provide further details about the visit.

Gen Dempsey last visited Iraq in December for a ceremony to formally shut down the nearly nine-year US war effort in Iraq.

The last American troops left Iraq on December 18, sticking to a year-end withdrawal deadline outlined in a 2008 security agreement. The US had hoped to maintain a military presence in Iraq beyond that deadline, but Washington was unable to reach a deal with the Iraqis on legal issues and immunity for US troops.

Since the American withdrawal, political in-fighting among Iraqi political leaders has deepened and security has deteriorated, with more than 200 people killed in insurgent attacks since the start of this month alone.

Gen Dempsey travelled to Iraq after a visit to Afghanistan, where an insurgent rocket attack damaged his plane while it was parked at an American base north of Kabul.

The general and his aides were safe in their quarters, and flew to Baghdad on a different aircraft.

His visit to Afghanistan focused on the state of the 10-year-old war there and a string of killings of US military trainers by their Afghan partners or militants dressed in Afghan uniforms.

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