Iraq’s PM Says There’s ‘No Need for Any Foreign Combat Forces on Iraqi Soil’ Ahead of Biden Meeting
18:56 GMT 25.07.2021 (Updated: 19:23 GMT 25.07.2021)
Senior Iraqi officials are set to meet US President Joe Biden at the White House on Monday to discuss the continuation of the ‘strategic partnership’ between the two countries, and potentially hammer out a timetable on the withdrawal of US combat troops from the country, some four years after Daesh’s* defeat.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has reiterated that Baghdad does not need any US or other foreign combat troops on its soil to be able to defend itself.
“There is no need for any foreign combat forces on Iraqi soil,” al-Kadhimi said, speaking to AP ahead of his Monday's talks with Biden.
Suggesting that a “special timetable” on withdrawal was necessary to account for the Iraqi forces’ readiness to fight terrorist remnants independently, al-Kadhimi indicated that the creation of such a timetable would depend on the outcome of Monday’s negotiations, which will be the fourth such talks.
The prime minister specified that ‘no combat troops’ does not mean no foreign troops of any kind, and indicated that Baghdad still “wants” US support for Iraqi forces in areas like troop training, help to develop “their efficiency and capabilities, and in security cooperation.”
Parliament Wants Total Withdrawal
Iraq’s parliament issued a resolution to expel all US and coalition forces from the country in January 2020 in the wake of the Trump administration’s unprovoked assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad’s airport. Amid lawmakers’ demands and a deteriorating security situation, Trump’s Pentagon gradually whittled down deployments from a high of 5,300 troops and handed over some bases to Iraq through 2020, but refused to depart completely. By the time Donald Trump left office, the US had cut troop levels to 2,500 apiece in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Trump reportedly sought a complete withdrawal from both countries by the spring, but his successor, Joe Biden, temporarily froze troop numbers as NATO ramped up its security assistance to Iraq, justifying the measure by citing the continued threat supposedly posed by Daesh.
Ahead of al-Kadhimi’s visit to Washington, Iraq’s security forces showed off their ability to independently mount operations against Daesh remnants, eliminating a terrorist drone in the country’s west, and seizing four jihadist strongholds in the Kirkuk region, during which they captured stocks of weapons and other equipment.
19 July, 13:52 GMT
Last week, Prime Minister al-Kadhimi expressed “hope” that his country would not be allowed to be turned into an arena of conflict between the United States and Iran, and indicated that while Baghdad appreciates US assistance, it’s also grateful for Iran’s help in building a stable Iraq.
Iraq and the United States established formal “mechanisms for the withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq” in April, but no deadline for such a withdrawal was set.
Last week, US media reported that American and Iraqi officials could agree to the complete withdrawal of US combat troops from the Middle Eastern nation by the end of 2021.
Many Iraqi lawmakers and the country’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militias –a coalition of mostly Shia fighters formed in 2014 to fight Daesh, have demanded that the US firmly commit to withdraw its troops, with some threatening to target American forces if Washington fails to do so in a timely manner.
* Daesh (ISIS) is a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.