UNITED STATES: U.S. President Joe Biden has announced that the American forces will end their combat mission in Iraq by the end of this year, but will continue to train and advise the Iraqi military.
The announcement of withdrawing U.S. combat forces came after Biden held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi at the White House on Monday.
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Currently, there are 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq helping local forces counter what remains of the Islamic State group (ISIS). The number of troops is likely to remain the same but the stance is seen as an effort to help the Iraqi PM.
Speaking at the White House, U.S. President alongside his Iraqi counterpart said, “We support strengthening Iraq’s democracy and we are anxious to make sure the election goes forward in October. We are also committed to our security cooperation, our shared fight against ISIS.”
Biden told the Iraqi prime minister “our counter-terrorism co-operation will continue even as we shift to this new phase.”
Kadhimi responded, “today our relationship is stronger than ever. Our co-operation is for the economy, the environment, health, education, culture and more.” He has insisted no foreign combat troops are needed in Iraq.
Rewinding history of relations
Since the Iranian military officer, Qasem Soleimani and the leader of an Iran-backed Shia Muslim militia were killed in a U.S. drone strike last year in the Iraq capital, Baghdad, the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq has become a matter of concern.
The U.S. accused Shia militias of carrying out hundreds of rocket, mortar and drone attacks on Iraqi military bases that host coalition forces in an apparent attempt to pressure them to leave.
In 2003, U.S. led forces invaded Iraq to overthrow President Saddam Hussein and eliminate weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist. U.S. combat troops eventually withdrew in 2011. However, three years later they returned at the request of the Iraqi government when the ISIS group overran large parts of the country.
Following the military defeat of IS in Iraq at the end of 2017, U.S. forces remained to help prevent a resurgence of the group.
“Our role in Iraq will be dealing with being available to continue to train, to assist, to help and deal with ISIS as it arrives,” Biden added at the White House meeting.