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US forces to stay in Iraq despite end of combat operations

US forces in Erbil, Iraq on 10 November 2020 [Yunus Keleş/Anadolu Agency]
US forces in Erbil, Iraq on 10 November 2020 [Yunus Keleş/Anadolu Agency]

US forces will remain in Iraq after the scheduled end of combat operations on 31 December, Newsweek has reported. A spokesperson for the US Department of Defence, Navy Commander Jessica McNulty, said that Washington's position on this remains unchanged.

According to Newsweek, McNulty made her remarks in response to a letter to the magazine last week from an alliance of Iraqi paramilitary factions known as the "Iraqi Resistance Coordination Commission". They expressed their disappointment at the lack of a US military drawdown.

"The United States will uphold the commitments it made during the July 2021 US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue, including that there will be no US forces with a combat role by the end of the year," explained McNulty. "US forces will remain in Iraq, at the invitation of the Government of Iraq, in an advising, assisting and intelligence-sharing role to support the Iraqi Security Forces in the campaign to defeat ISIS [Daesh]."

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The Iraqi factions described the US "occupation" as "brazen" for increasing the number of its troops and equipment in its bases in Iraq. They pointed to reports suggesting that the US did not intend to withdraw from the country "under the pretext that there was a request from Baghdad [not] to do so." This is something that the Iraqi government has yet to deny.

The letter from the factions contained an implicit threat to "dismember the occupation as soon as… the deadline ends after midnight on 31 December 2021."

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi said in July that US President Joe Biden had promised an end to his country's combat mission in the country by the end of the year.

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Asia & AmericasIraqMiddle EastNewsUS
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