Pence Visit to Erbil Underscores US Support for Kurds
US Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise visit to Iraq on Saturday, landing in Erbil, capital of the semiautonomous Kurdish region, where he met with Iraqi Kurdistan President Nechirvan Barzani. Pence spoke by phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. He and his wife, Karen, also helped serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner to hundreds of US troops stationed in the area. His visit was meant as a show of support for the United States’ Kurdish allies in the fight against ISIS, after US President Donald Trump announced in early October the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria, where the Kurds now face attacks from a Turkish cross-border offensive. Trump was widely criticized for that move, which many saw as a betrayal of a loyal US ally in favor of Russian, Turkish and Iranian interests. The US-led coalition said Saturday that a day earlier its forces, along with hundreds of Syrian Kurdish commandos, had carried out the largest operation against ISIS in eastern Syria since the US pullback began, capturing dozens of ISIS fighters.