Biden Reportedly Agrees to Iraqi Request to Remove All Combat Troops from Country
By Staff, Agencies
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Khadimi and US President Joe Biden will announce an agreement to end the US military’s combat presence in Iraq by the end of 2021, a senior administration source has told AP.
Under the agreement, the US role in Iraq will switch to a strictly advisory and training capacity, according to the source.
The announcement is expected to be made later on Monday from the White House, where al-Khadimi and Biden are set to meet to discuss the strategic partnership between the two countries.
AP’s source said the administration feels that Iraqi’s security forces have been “battle tested” and proven “capable” in defending the country. The White House continues to consider the Wahhabi Daesh [Arabic acronym for “ISIS” / “ISIL”] as a "considerable threat," they said.
In an interview on Sunday, al-Khadimi stressed that Baghdad does not need any US or other foreign combat troops on its soil to be able to defend itself, and said that a “special timetable” was necessary for the withdrawal of these forces. He clarified that Iraq would still like assistance from Washington in troop training and security cooperation.
The US intervened in Iraq in 2014 at the request of the country’s government to help combat Daesh militants which had seized large swathes of the country’s northwest and proceeded to expand into eastern Syria. The terrorist group arose in the aftermath of chaos caused by the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which toppled the country’s government and sparked widespread insurgencies and economic and political instability in Iraq and across the region.
Iraq and the US triumphantly announced that Daesh had been defeated in 2017, but US combat forces have stayed in the country ever since, justifying their presence by citing the threat said to be posed by terrorist remnants.
Iraqi officials began pressuring the US to withdrawal from the country in January 2020, when, in the aftermath of the unprovoked air strike targeting an Iranian commander and a senior Baghdad-allied resistance leader, Iraq’s parliament adopted a resolution demanding that all US forces be expelled.
In the months that followed, amid pressure from Baghdad and escalating attacks by government-allied resistance groups, the Pentagon began paring down troop numbers from 5,300 to 2,500, and handed over several major bases to Iraqi forces, but refused to agree with parliament’s demands to leave the country completely.
Iraq and the US have held three rounds of negotiations on the status of the remaining troops, with al-Khadimi’s visit constituting a fourth round of talks don’t end in agreement.
US media have speculated that Biden will try to get some kind of assurance out of Baghdad that it will "crack down" on Iran-backed resistance groups attacking US forces. However, al-Khadimi appears to have brushed off any suggestions in this direction, saying Iraq is partnered with Iran because “the Iranians are working seriously to help us build stability in Iraq.”