Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi are expected to announce an agreement on Monday to end the US military combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year, according to a senior official in the Biden administration.
The plan to give the US military mission, whose stated objective is to help Iraq defeat the Islamic State, a strictly advisory and training role will be spelled out in a larger statement to be issued by the two. leaders after a White House meeting on Monday. afternoon, the official said.
The official said Iraqi security forces were “battle-tested” and proved “capable” of protecting their country. Still, the Biden administration recognizes that Isis remains a considerable threat, the official said.
Isis was largely routed on the battlefield in 2017. But he can still lead attacks with many casualties. Last week, the group claimed responsibility for a roadside bombing that left at least 30 dead and dozens injured in a market in suburban Baghdad.
The US and Iraq agreed in April that the transition to a training and advisory mission meant the US combat role would end, but did not stop on a timeline. The announcement comes less than three months before the legislative elections.
Kadhimi has no shortage of problems. Iranian-backed militias in Iraq have stepped up their attacks on US forces as a series of devastating hospital fires left dozens dead and coronavirus infections skyrocketed.
For Kadhimi, the possibility of offering the Iraqi public a date for the end of the American military presence could be a feather in his cap before the elections. Biden officials say Kadhimi also deserves credit for improving Iraq’s position.
Last month, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi traveled to Baghdad for joint meetings – the first time an Egyptian president has paid an official visit since the 1990s, when the links were broken up after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.
In March, Pope Francis made a historic visit to Iraq, praying among the ruined churches of Mosul, a former stronghold of Isis, and meeting Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, an influential Shia cleric, in the holy city of Najaf.
Kadhimi has made it clear that he believes it is time for the United States to end the combat mission.
“There is no need for foreign combat forces on Iraqi soil,” he told The Associated Press.
The US troop presence has risen to around 2,500 since late last year, when Donald Trump ordered a reduction of 3,000. The announcement of the end of the combat mission comes as the United States are on the verge of ending their war in Afghanistan, nearly 20 years after George W Bush launched this conflict in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The American mission to train and advise Iraqi forces has its origins in Barack Obama’s decision in 2014 to return troops to the country. The move was made in response to an ISIS takeover of much of western and northern Iraq and a collapse of Iraqi security forces that appeared to threaten Baghdad. Obama completely withdrew US forces from Iraq in 2011, eight years after the US invasion.
The distinction between combat troops and those involved in training and counseling can be blurred, given that US troops are threatened with attack. But it is clear that US ground forces have not been on the offensive in Iraq in years, except for the largely non-publicized special operations missions targeting Isis.
A major complication is the periodic attacks on bases housing US and coalition troops by Iraqi militias aligned with Iran. The vulnerability of US troops was demonstrated in January 2020 when Iran launched a missile attack on al-Asad air base in western Iraq. No Americans were killed, but dozens suffered head trauma.
It was shortly after a US drone strike killed Iranian military commander Qassem Suleimani and a senior Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad airport.
Monday’s meeting was also due to detail the United States’ efforts to help the Iraqi government’s response to Covid-19, the education system and the energy sector.