Baghdad, Jul 28 (EFE).- The Iraqi Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) said Wednesday that this week’s agreement between Baghdad and Washington for the withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq by year’s end is a deception aimed at allowing the occupation to continue.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi traveled to the United States at the start of the week for his first in-person meeting with President Joe Biden and the talks concluded with news of an accord to conclude the US “combat mission” in the country.
“Our role in Iraq will be … to be available, to continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS (Islamic State) as it arises, but we’re not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission,” Biden told reporters as he and Al-Kadhimi met in the White House Oval Office on Monday.
In a statement, the PMF coordination committee said that the plan announced by Biden amounts to nothing more than keeping US troops in Iraq with “a change of title.”
Iraq’s security forces “are capable and strong” and have no need of help from the US, according to the statement, which described the continued presence of American military advisers as “harmful and prejudicial.”
The number of US military personnel currently in Iraq is roughly 2,500, compared with a peak of 170,000 in 2007 during the “surge” ordered by then-President George W. Bush in the face of mounting resistance to the occupation that began in March 2003.
Iraqi lawmakers voted 18 months ago to urge a complete withdrawal of foreign forces in the wake of the US airstrike on Baghdad that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and PMF commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
In the years following the ISIS conquest of large swathes of Iraq, the US cooperated with the PMF and even – tacitly – with Iran to roll back Islamic State.
But with ISIS defeated, tensions have risen between the US and the PMF and Washington has engaged in airstrikes against the militias in retaliation for attacks on US bases attributed to the Shiite units. EFE