MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning citizens from Iraq and six other Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States was met with mixed reactions in Mosul, where Iraqi soldiers are working closely with a U.S.-led coalition in a tough fight against the Islamic State group.
But while many Iraqi soldiers said they were shocked by the news, others brushed it aside, explaining that in the long run it may be better for their country to prevent the highly educated from immigrating abroad.
“When he made this decision he destroyed us,” said Iraqi special forces Cpl. Ali Latif, whose unit works closely with U.S.-led coalition forces in the fight against IS in Mosul. “I heard the news, that many people were stopped in airports, why would (the United States) do this?”
Meanwhile, the foreign relations committee of Iraq’s parliament is asking the government to impose a similar visa ban on Americans trying to enter Iraq, according to member Hassan Shwerid.
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Influential Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has also spoken out against the ban, suggesting all Americans should be forced out of Iraq in retaliation, according to a statement from his office.
In the more than three months since the operation to retake Mosul was officially launched, Latif says he’s lost six close friends in the fight against the militants. Moving forward he doesn’t believe Trump’s order will dramatically alter the fight against IS, but he says it’s already caused mild friction with his U.S. counterparts.
“This (decision) it makes us feel a little bad,” he said.
Deeper inside Mosul a unit of Iraqi soldiers admitted they hadn’t heard the news.
“Have they stopped giving visas to Iraqi people? Does this mean we cannot enter America? Why?” a man yelled from the top of a supply truck.
“Honestly I love Trump!” said another Iraqi special forces solider, Sgt. Maj. Diar Al-Khair.
“We don’t want our doctors and professors to keep going to another country and make it greater than our own,” he said.
Iraq has suffered from severe brain-drain for over a decade as many of the country’s educated elite have fled the instability in the country that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
State media reported that Jordan’s King Abdullah II will visit Washington on Monday. The king will meet with administration officials and members of Congress, according to state media who did not mention a White House visit.
Pro-Western Jordan isn’t among the countries slapped with the travel ban, but views refugee resettlement to the U.S. and other countries as a way of easing its own burden; Jordan hosts more than 650,000 displaced Syrians.
Associated Press writers Karin Laub in Amman, Jordan, and Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sinan Salah in Baghdad contributed.