Iraq’s PM To Tell Biden In White House Visit: ‘US Combat Troops Have Got To Go’
Next week on July 26 President Joe Biden is expected to host Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi at the White House in order to “highlight the strategic partnership between the United States in Iraq,” according to a US statement.
But the Iraqi side is now saying that American combat troops have got to go. Al-Kadhemi emphasized in a new statement at the start of this week: “The visit will be to set out this relationship, and to put an end to the presence of combat forces, because the Iraqi army can now fight for itself on behalf of Iraqis and the world against terrorist groups in Iraq. There is no need for combat troops.”
He did say that US training and intelligence assistance, along with air power when requested would continue to aid the anti-ISIS and counterterror mission in the country.
Since Trump’s final year in office, the presence of US combat forces in Iraq has been scaled down little by little, with some bases even being handed over to Iraq’s army; however, Iraq’s parliament all the way back in January 2020 passed a resolution demanding a full and final exit of all US troops. This was prompted by the assassination that month of IRGC Quds chief Qassem Soleimani and founder of Iraq’s powerful Kataib Hezbollah militia, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
This was followed by large-scale protests across major Iraqi cities demanding that foreign troops leave. Since then there’s also been tit-for-tat attacks between pro-Iranian Iraq groups and American forces. Recently Biden has struck ‘Iran-backed’ targets inside eastern Syria near the Iraq border.
Days ago US Mideast envoy Brett McGurk reportedly discussed a full US withdrawal with Kadhemi in Baghdad, in order to lay some of the groundwork for the later July meeting at the White House. According to AFP:
Some 3,500 foreign troops are still on Iraqi territory, including 2,500 Americans, who have been posted to help fight the Islamic State group since 2014.
In Washington, Kadhemi is expected to push for a concrete timetable of American troop withdrawal. The implementation of their departure could take years.
Tit-for-tat strikes against local militias in Syria and Iraq are a waste of U.S. resources, and they risk wider conflict for no core U.S. interest.
ISIS’s territorial caliphate has been destroyed, and U.S. troops should exit both Syria and Iraq. https://t.co/isa4nDDIrj
— Defense Priorities (@defpriorities) July 19, 2021
But given such a relatively small presence of about 2,500 troops, one wonders why a draw down would “take years”.
No doubt a stalled US exit has much more to do with ensuring the ‘security vacuum’ isn’t immediately filled by Iran. However, it’s too little, too late given Iranian Shia ascendancy in Baghdad happened the moment the Bush administration toppled Saddam Hussein.
Mon, 07/19/2021 – 21:00