Iraqi Militia Threatens to Fight American ‘Occupiers’ as Pentagon Marks End to Combat Mission

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Flag of Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.12.2021
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Iraqi and US officials announced Thursday that America’s counterterrorism combat mission in Iraq had come to an end. From now on, the US military role in Iraq is set to be limited to training and advisory support. In recent months, some Baghdad-allied Shia militias have warned that they would not rest until all US troops were gone.
US forces will be classified as “occupiers” after the end of December and treated accordingly, Nasr al-Shammari, a spokesman for al-Nujaba, a 10,000 militiamen-strong Iraqi Shia militia movement, has warned.
“American forces cannot be identified as anything other than occupiers if they do not withdraw by the end of the current year,” al-Shammari said, speaking to Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen television news network on Thursday.
“The deadline for the withdrawal of occupying forces is nearing, and must be fully implemented. The resistance front will never again face the challenges it confronted between 2003 and 2011. The bloc is now stronger than ever,” the spokesman warned, referring to the period of the US occupation of Iraq following the 2003 invasion.
Expressing support for forces “mounting resistance against occupying US forces,” al-Shammari stressed that the al-Nujaba movement would ally itself “with the groups that are targeting American forces.”
In a statement earlier in the day, al-Nujaba secretary-general Akram al-Kaabi warned that the US “occupiers” would be made to pay for their crimes against Iraqis, and that Washington would “remain an enemy to us” even if they pulled out entirely.
The US occupation “created many proxies that serve its interest in Iraq, and fighting them is a legitimate and national duty,” according to al-Kaabi. The official accused the US of failing to respect Iraq’s sovereignty, and rejected attempts to disarm the Popular Mobilization Militias formed in 2014 to fight Daesh (ISIS)* so long as the country is “still occupied.”
The United States designates the al-Nujaba movement as a terrorist group, despite its operations in fighting jihadist forces operating across Syria and Iraq. In April 2021, media affiliated with al-Nujaba reported that “unknown resistance forces” had attacked a “Mossad safe house” in northern Iraq, killing multiple “Israeli spies.”
Thursday’s statements were the second time al-Nujaba has publicly warned the US to leave Iraq. In July, shortly after US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced an agreement on the end to the US combat mission, the militant group said that it had “no confidence whatsoever in the Americans,” and would “not agree to their presence [in Iraq] under any circumstances.”
U.S. Army soldiers look at an F-16 fighter jet during an official ceremony to receive four such aircraft from the United States, at a military base in Balad, Iraq - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.07.2021
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Al-Nujaba demanded “a complete pullout of American forces,” including the “criminal” US Air Force, which the group said was responsible for a range of crimes, including the January 2020 assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and Popular Mobilization Forces deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Iraqi national security advisor Qasim al-Araji announced a formal end to the US-led coalition combat mission in Iraq on Thursday. Combined Joint Task Force-Inherent Resolve, the official name for the US-led mission, later confirmed that the combat mission had come to an end, and transitioned to an “advise, assist, and enable” role.
The US is estimated to have about 2,500 troops in Iraq – the same number that were in the country when Donald Trump left office in January. According to Air Force Magazine, the troops were simply “transitioned” to an 'advise and assist' role Thursday ahead of the 31 deadline to end the combat mission. The Trump administration began slashing troop numbers in Iraq in the spring of 2020 following the Soleimani assassination, which led Iraq’s parliament to demand the US’s withdrawal, and saw Iran raining over a dozen ballistic missiles on two US bases, leaving over 100 US troops with traumatic brain injuries. The assassination has also prompted some Iraqi militias to launch rocket attacks on US facilities, and to sabotage US supply convoys.
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.
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