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Iraq’s prime minister says US troops no longer needed to fight Islamic terrorists

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​Iraq’s prime minister said US combat troops are no longer needed to fight Islamic State terrorists in the country and said a timetable for their redeployment will be part of discussions with Biden administration officials this week. 

​​“There is no need for any foreign combat forces on Iraqi soil,” said ​Mustafa ​al-Kadhimi​ told the Associated Press, adding that Iraq’s security forces and army are up to the task of defending the country. 

He said any withdrawal of US forces would be based on the needs of Iraqi troops, which in the past year have carried out independent missions against the terror group.

“The war against IS and the readiness of our forces requires a special timetable, and this depends on the negotiations that we will conduct in Washington,” ​al-Kadhimi said in the interview published Sunday.

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The Iraqi leader, who is scheduled to meet with President Biden on Monday, said he will ask the US for help in training and intelligence gathering. 

The timeline could have most US troops out of Iraq by the end of the year. 

U.S. soldiers seen at a military base near Baghdad.
U.S. soldiers at a military base near Baghdad.
REUTERS

An agreement between Iraq and the US in April called for the US military to focus on training Iraqi troops to fight ISIS and begin the process of withdrawal but no timetable was set.

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Roughly 2,500 US service members are in Iraq after former President Donald Trump ordered the reduction last year.​

“What we want from the U.S. presence in Iraq is to support our forces in training and developing their efficiency and capabilities, and in security cooperation,” al-Kadhimi ​told the wire service. 

A US official told the Wall Street Journal that the administration could just redefine the role of American troops in Iraq rather than reduce their presence.

“It is not really a numerical adjustment but rather a functional clarification of what the force would be doing consistent with our strategic priorities,” ​the official said.

I​n the end, some say the duties of US troops may not change that much because they have been primarily focused on advising and supporting Iraqi forces in the fight against ISIS.

“The aim is to help Kadhimi go home with an achievement but without collapsing the counterterrorism campaign,” Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy​, told the newspaper​. “Almost none of the forces in Iraq engage in combat unless they are attacked.”​

Iraq declared victory over ISIS in 2017 but the group still has a presence in the northern parts of the country and continues to launch attacks at Baghdad.

A suicide bomber killed 35 people last week in a market in the nation’s capital. ​

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People and security forces gather at the site of a bombing in Wahailat market in Sadr City, Iraq, Monday, July 19, 2021.
People and security forces gather at the site of a bombing in Wahailat market in Sadr City, Iraq, Monday, July 19, 2021.
AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed

ISIS claimed responsibility.

Iraqi hardliners oppose the US military remaining in the county and are still angry over the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a leading Iranian commander, in a US drone strike near the Baghdad airport in January 2020. 

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