The defense department pledged to lobby for US entry of Iraqis who supported the American military after President Donald Trump barred nationals from Iraq and six other countries with Muslim majorities.
The Pentagon is working on a list of names of Iraqis who have worked for the US military, including fighters and translators, “often doing so at great peril for themselves,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said.
“We are ensuring that those who have demonstrated their commitment tangibly to fight alongside us and support us, that those names are known” to the services responsible for authorising entry into the country, he said.
In an executive order on Friday, Trump barred entry to the US for 90 days for citizens of Iraq, a key ally in the fight against violent extremist groups, and Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The order, billed as a temporary move to allow time for the new Trump administration to review visa criteria in an effort to make America safe from “radical Islamic terrorists,” also banned all refugees from coming into the country for 120 days.
The sudden travel ban sowed confusion and led to distressed scenes over the weekend at airports in the US and abroad as would-be passengers were detained or turned away.
It also sparked outrage in the US and criticism from the United Nations human rights chief and a number of countries, including Iraq.
“We are still in the process of assessing” the order, Davis said. He declined to say whether the defense department had helped in planning and advising the president’s move.
The status of Iraqi pilots who are currently training at an air base in Arizona appeared murky. “That is one of the issues that we are specifically looking at,” the spokesman said.
Iraq pushed back against the US ban, urging Washington to “review this wrong decision.”
The Iraqi parliament approved a bill calling for the government to take similar measures against Americans if Washington does not scrap the directive.
The travel restrictions come on the heels of repeated assertions by Trump that the US should have stolen Iraq’s oil before drawing down its troops in 2011 from the war there.