WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to the White House on Monday amid reports the two countries may be ready to announce the redeployment of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of the year.
“There is no need for any foreign combat forces on Iraqi soil,” al-Kadhimi told the Associated Press on Sunday. Al-Kadhimi did not provide a timeline for American troops to leave, but he said Iraq’s security forces and army are capable of defending the country without U.S.-led coalition troops.
However, he emphasized that Iraq will still seek U.S. military assistance in training and intelligence gathering.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week that discussions between the two governments “have been extremely constructive and are ongoing” but would not say whether Biden is planning to announce a specific date and other plans for the redeployment.
Delegates for the two countries said in April the mission of U.S. forces in Iraq has shifted to training and advisory roles, allowing for the redeployment of combat forces remaining in the country. Statements from both sides said the timing of the redeployment would be determined in upcoming talks but also stressed the need for continued cooperation on security.
America’s military presence in Iraq became a flashpoint between the two allies after the Trump administration targeted a top Iranian general in January 2020, while he was in Baghdad. Trump ordered the drone strike that killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who led an elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The strike also killed an Iraqi military official, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was the deputy commander of an Iranian-backed militia group.
Iraqi foreign minister, Fuad Hussein, said in an interview last week with Voice of America’s Kurdish Service that he expected an agreement to be announced that U.S. fighting forces will not remain in Iraq.
“When they exit is related to a timeline agreed on by both sides, as well as technical matters and other issues related to the security of the forces,” Hussein said.
The U.S. still has about 2,500 troops in Iraq after a series of draw-downs in recent years. Their assignments include counter-terrorism operations and training Iraqi security forces.
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Other issues likely to be on the agenda for Biden’s meeting with Kadhimi include economic, security and cultural matters.
On Friday, the Biden administration announced it is providing nearly $155 million in additional humanitarian assistance to Iraq, as well as refugees in the region and the communities hosting them. The funding, from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, will be used to provide shelter, health care, emergency food assistance, protection and water and sanitation services throughout the country.
The U.S. has provided more than $200 million in humanitarian support to Iraq this fiscal year and more than $3 billion since 2014.
Michael Collins and Maureen Groppe cover the White House. Follow Collins on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS and Groppe at @mgroppe.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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