Washington, Jul 26 (EFE).- President Joe Biden confirmed Monday that US combat troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year, although an unspecified number of soldiers will remain in the Middle Eastern country to advise and train the Iraqi army.
“We are not going to be on a combat mission (in Iraq) at the end of the year,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
Biden said that Washington will maintain military personnel in Iraq both to provide advice to and to train the Iraqi troops.
“We are committed to our cooperation on security matters. Our fight against the Islamic State (IS) is vital to the stability of the region and our cooperation against terrorism will continue as we enter this new phase,” Biden said.
The president did not specify, however, how many US troops will remain in Iraq to continue the fight against the Islamic State and to deal with Shiite fighters allied with Tehran, who – in recent months – have increased their attacks on US soldiers.
Currently, there are 2,500 US soldiers in Iraq, far below the 170,000 who had been deployed there in 2007 after the US-led invasion.
Besides the US, Iran is the only big ally of the Iraqi government and Tehran’s Shiite sympathizers in Iraq have been pressuring Al-Kadhimi to get all foreign troops out of the country.
In remarks to reporters, Al-Kadhimi
expressed his thanks to the US people for their efforts in Iraq and said that he wants to work with Biden.
Saying that “our nation is now stronger than ever,” Al-Kadhimi, who took office in May 2020 after his predecessor, Adel Abdelmahdi, resigned in November 2019 amid violent protests in Iraq during which about 600 demonstrators were killed in police actions to suppress the demonstrations.
In less than three months, Iraq will hold elections to select members of parliament, who will then select the president and the prime minister.
Monday’s announcement allows Al-Kadhimi to satisfy Shiite political factions who reject Washington’s presence and to be able to point to an achievement in the run-up to the balloting.
The US has maintained an almost continuous military presence in Iraq since 2003, when then-President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of that country under the pretext – later proved false – that dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, in 2011 removed all US troops from Iraq but had to order their return in 2014 to lead an international coalition against the IS.