First (cordial) meeting between the two leaders yesterday at the White House. The goal remains the "permanent defeat" of Isis in the area. US military will remain on the ground to train soldiers. The withdrawal will take place by the end of the year. The "strategic partnership" between Washington and Baghdad remains.
Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and U.S. President Joe Biden have reached an agreement for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, to be completed by the end of the year.
The agreement was sealed yesterday between the two leaders, during the meeting held at the White House. However, a source in the U.S. State Department warns that "no one" intends to declare the famous phrase "mission accomplished" and the goal remains "the permanent defeat of Isis" (Islamic State).
To date, there are about 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq, who are collaborating with local soldiers to fight the still active cells of the jihadist movement. Some of the forces are expected to remain in the country to continue training programs. Biden declared that the US intends "toto continue to train, to assist, to help and deal with ISIS as it arrives"; however, "we're not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission."
Biden and Kadhimi met in the Oval Office for their first face-to-face conversation as part of a strategic dialogue between the United States and Iraq. The agreement between the parties comes at a politically sensitive time for the Iraqi government, from which Baghdad could greatly benefit. In the last period, the Iraqi premier has been facing increasing pressure from Iran-aligned parties and paramilitary groups opposed to the U.S. military role in the country.
U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq in 2003 to overthrow then-President Saddam Hussein and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, no trace of which has ever been found. The U.S. presence in Iraq has become a source of political and military confrontation following the killing in a drone strike of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and the local leader of a Tehran-backed Shiite Muslim militia in early 2020.
Political parties aligned with the Islamic Republic have called for the withdrawal of all forces from the coalition, despite the threat posed by the Sunni extremist group. In the past, Washington has accused Shiite militias of carrying out hundreds of attacks with missiles, mortars and drones against Iraqi military bases hosting coalition forces, to increase pressure and force them to withdraw.
For the U.S. president, the announcement marks the end of another war started by former President George W. Bush, after Afghanistan. Speaking at the White House, Biden told his Iraqi counterpart that "our counterterrorism cooperation will continue even as we move into this new phase." Kachin responded by speaking of a "relationship" that is now "stronger than ever. Our cooperation," he concluded, "encompasses economics, health, education, culture and so much more," but no foreign combat troops are needed.