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US resumes joint military operations in Iraq

US troops resumed on Thursday joint military operations with Iraqi forces, which were suspended in the wake of the assassination of the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a US air raid in Baghdad earlier this month.

The US decision coincided with the statement of Salah Al-Din Operations Command (affiliated with the Iraqi Ministry of Defence), announcing the death of eight soldiers and the destruction of Daesh locations during a military operation.

In recent weeks, attacks by suspected Daesh fighters have increased, particularly in the rugged region between Kirkuk, Salahuddin and Diyala governorates, known as the "Triangle of Death."

In 2017, Iraq declared victory over Daesh by reclaiming all of its territory, previously controlled by the terrorist organisation. The seized lands are estimated at about a third of the country's area, which Daesh invaded in the summer of 2014.

However, Daesh cells are still present in large areas of Iraq, and are launching scattered attacks from time to time.

The New York Times quoted two US military officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, saying that the US Department of Defence wants to resume its cooperation with the Iraqi army in combating Daesh as soon as possible, so that the jihadist organisation does not take advantage of the status quo.

READ: US considers cutting military aid to Iraq, if troops expelled

In response to a question by Agence France-Presse (AFP), the Pentagon refused to comment on what was reported by The New York Times.

Washington decided to dismiss its joint military operations with Iraq on 5 January, two days after the death of the commander of the Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani, in a US drone raid near Baghdad International Airport."

On the same day, the Iraqi parliament asked the government to end the presence of all foreign forces in the country.

Soleimani was assassinated by the US on 3 January, following a series of missile attacks targeting US forces and the intention of protesters affiliated to pro-Iranian factions to storm the US embassy in Baghdad.

US President Donald Trump has threatened to impose economic sanctions on Iraq in case Baghdad decides to expel the 5,200 US soldiers deployed in the country.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that "all" the Iraqi leaders have told him privately that they support US military presence in their country, despite their public calls to end the presence of US soldiers in the country.

However, Pompeo did not rule out reducing the number of US soldiers deployed in Iraq, in line with Trump's desire, who has been reiterating his intention to end costly military operations in the Middle East.

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Asia & AmericasIraqMiddle EastNewsUS
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