Iraqi Security Advisor Claims International Coalition Withdrawing Troops as 'Combat Mission Ends'
09:45 GMT 09.12.2021 (Updated: 10:33 GMT 09.12.2021)
Baghdad and Washington reached an agreement in July requiring all US combat troops in Iraq to withdraw by the end of the year. A limited contingent of troops will be allowed to stay on for a "training, advising, assisting and intelligence-sharing role". Some Iraqi political factions have demanded the complete pullout of all foreign forces.
The US-led international mission has wrapped up its combat mission in Iraq and a withdrawal has taken place, Iraqi national security advisor Qasim al-Araji has announced.
"Today, we have completed the last round of dialogue with the international coalition, which we started last year, to officially announce the end of the combat missions of the coalition forces and their withdrawal from Iraq," al-Araji wrote in a tweet.
"The relationship with the international coalition will continue in the field of training, advice and empowerment," the official added.
The US-led coalition has did not immediately comment on al-Araji's statement.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and US President Joe Biden hammered out an agreement in July requiring all US combat forces to leave Iraq by the end of 2021, with a limited contingent of non-combat troops allowed to stay on to assist Iraqi security forces in a training, advising and intelligence-sharing capacity.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin announced
last month that the combat mission in Iraq would be concluded by the end of the year, with "no US forces with a combat role" to remain present by 31 December.
The US began slashing troop numbers in Iraq and handing military facilities to Iraqi forces in the spring of 2020, in the aftermath of the unprovoked January 2020 US assassination attack against Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad. Soleimani, whose Quds Force provided advisory assistance to the Iraqi side in Baghdad's battle against Daesh (ISIS)* between 2014 and 2017, was in the country on a diplomatic mission at the time.
19 October 2021, 19:24 GMT
Soleimani's killing prompted Iran to rain ballistic missiles down on two US bases, and pushed Iraq's parliament to issue a resolution demanding the withdrawal of US forces. Shia militias began rocket strikes on US forces and diplomatic facilities.
Troop numbers fell from a high of 5,300 to 2,500 personnel by the time Donald Trump left office.
Iran-allied Shia militias have expressed dissatisfaction with the July withdrawal agreement, and demanded that all US troops, not just 'combat forces', be pulled out. Some groups have warned that attacks on US forces and facilities will continue until the foreign troops are gone.
8 November 2021, 19:02 GMT
The US has maintained troops in Iraq for fifteen of the past eighteen years, invading the country in 2003, and briefly pulling troops out in 2011 before returning in 2014 under the pretext of fighting Daesh. The terrorist 'caliphate' lost all its territory in Iraq by 2017, but US forces stayed on, justifying their presence with the alleged threat of a jihadist resurgence. Iraq's security forces and allied militias maintain that they can deal with the terrorist threat independently.
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.