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US to reduce troops in Iraq in coming months

Commander of 32nd Brigade Ahmed Qasim (R) attends the US handover ceremony of al-Qaim military base, where has been used by US-led coalition troops, on the Iraq-Syria border in Iraq’s Anbar province, west of Baghdad, on 19 March 2020. [Murtadha Al-Sudani - Anadolu Agency]
Commander of 32nd Brigade Ahmed Qasim (R) attends the US handover ceremony of al-Qaim military base, where has been used by US-led coalition troops, on the Iraq-Syria border in Iraq’s Anbar province, west of Baghdad, on 19 March 2020. [Murtadha Al-Sudani - Anadolu Agency]

The US has agreed to reduce its forces in Iraq over the coming months, a joint statement issued by the two governments said today.

Released at the end of the strategic dialogue held between the two countries via video conferencing yesterday, the statement said: “The US will also continue to hold dialogue with the Baghdad government on the status of the remaining forces.”

The move comes in the light of developing bilateral security relations based on mutual interests.

The agreement, however, did not outline details regarding how many troops would remain and over what period of time the others would be withdrawn.

According to the statement, the US asserted it does not seek or demand permanent bases or a permanent military presence in Iraq, as was agreed in the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement between the two countries.

The Iraqi government, for its part, pledged to “protect the military forces of the international coalition and the Iraqi facilities that host them.”

READ: Iraq, the US and the difficult dialogue 

The US affirmed its support for Iraq, its new government, and committed assistance in implementing its reform program in a manner that meets the aspirations of the people.

It added that it will also provide economic advisers to Baghdad to work directly with the government.

For his part, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi said: “The American withdrawal from Iraq has been confirmed to all who are present and that there are no rules.”

He confirmed to the official Iraq News Agency: “The strategic dialogue between the two countries was in line with the parliament’s decision to withdraw the US [forces].”

READ: War crimes claims against British Iraq war veterans dismissed 

US troops have been stationed in Iraq since invading the oil rich state in 2003. Though their numbers have fluctuated, it is unclear how many military personnel reside in the Gulf state. They have maintained a presence in the oil rich state within the framework of the Washington-led offensive against Daesh.

More than two and a half years after the coalition’s “victory” over Daesh, thousands of American soldiers remain in the country and this will form part of the negotiations.

After about 30 missile attacks targeting US interests in Iraq and Washington’s assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and Deputy Chairman of Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, in early January, anti-American sentiment is on the increase.

Earlier this year Iraqi lawmakers voted to end the presence of foreign forces in the country, putting the US presence under threat.

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Asia & AmericasIraqMiddle EastNewsUS
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