U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has embarked on a tour of the Middle East and Africa for talks on the fight against Islamic extremism.
Mattis starts his tour on April 18 in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, where he is expected to meet senior Saudi leaders. He also is scheduled to visit Egypt, Israel, Qatar, and Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.
On his weeklong trip, Mattis will reaffirm "key U.S. military alliances, engage with strategic partners in the Middle East and Africa, and discuss cooperative efforts to counter destabilizing activities and defeat extremist terror organizations," the Defense Department has said.
Officials and experts say Mattis will focus on the fight against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, which continues to control large swaths of Iraqi and Syrian territory, and articulating President Donald Trump's policy toward Syria.