After meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he had received “assurances” from the White House that the U.S. government will increase support for Iraq as security forces continue to combat the Islamic State and the government works to reconstruct areas liberated from the extremist group’s control.
“We have been given assurances that the support will not only continue, but will accelerate,” al-Abadi said at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Monday.
Last week, Trump released his 2018 budget outline, raising big questions about the future of U.S. foreign assistance under his administration. The proposal called for a 28 percent cut to the U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, including an even more significant decrease of Overseas Contingency Operations funding, which finances operations in conflict and disaster areas. Along with 18 other government agencies, Trump’s budget blueprint called for eliminating USIP — the venue where al-Abadi delivered his remarks on Monday.
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USAID spent more than $1 billion on humanitarian assistance to Iraq between fiscal years 2014 and 2016.
“The important thing for us was that we see an administration and a president who see and appreciate what we are doing and give us support,” al-Abadi said of his meeting with Trump. The Iraqi prime minister is scheduled to participate in the U.S. president’s 68-nation summit on countering the Islamic State later this week.
Abadi also suggested that a long-time regional adversary, Saudi Arabia, might be open to a warmer relationship with Iraq, and that such a relationship might include humanitarian assistance. Last month Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir became the first government official from the country to visit Iraq since 1990.
“It’s warming. It’s warming,” Al-Abadi said of the bilateral relationship.
“They are prepared to open a commercial and humanitarian relationship with Iraq. They have shown they are interested in helping in providing reconstruction for the area which is liberated from Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic name for ISIS.
The Iraqi prime minister was less enthusiastic about the international humanitarian community’s follow-through on pledges made to support his country, where 3 million are internally displaced and 11 million people need humanitarian assistance. Only 8 percent of the United Nation’s $985 million funding appeal for 2017 has been met so far.
“Yes, I’m satisfied on the pledge. But I’m not satisfied — yet — on the delivery,” he said.