US agrees to end combat mission in Iraq
BADHDAD: US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al—Kadhimi sealed an agreement formally ending the US combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021, more than 18 years after US troops were sent to the country.
Coupled with Biden’s withdrawal of the last American forces in Afghanistan by the end of August, the Democratic president is completing US combat missions in the two wars that then-President George W Bush began under his watch.
According to reports, Biden and Kadhimi met in the Oval Office for their first face-to-face talks on Monday as part of a strategic dialogue between the United States and Iraq. “Our role in Iraq will be … to be available, to continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS (a terrorist organization — Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) 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 Kadhimi met.
There are currently 2,500 US troops in Iraq focusing on countering the remnants of ISIS. The US role in Iraq will shift entirely to training and advising the Iraqi military to defend itself. The shift is not expected to have a major effect since the United States has already moved towards focusing on training Iraqi forces.
The senior administration official would not say how many US troops would remain on the ground in Iraq for advising and training. Kadhimi also declined to speculate about a future US drawdown, saying troop levels would be determined by technical reviews.
A US-led coalition invaded Iraq in March 2003 based on charges that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s government possessed weapons of mass destruction. Saddam was removed from power, but such weapons were never found.
In another report, the United States plans to provide Iraq with 500,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine under the global Covax vaccine-sharing programme. Biden said the doses should arrive in a couple of weeks, while the United States will also provide $5.2m to help fund a UN mission to monitor October elections in Iraq.
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