Joe Biden says US war mission in Iraq will end by year’s end – Times of India

Washington: President Joe Biden said on Monday the US combat mission in Iraq would end by the end of the year, an announcement that reflects more of a reality on the ground than a major change in US policy.
Even before Biden took office, the main US focus has been assisting Iraqi forces, not fighting on their behalf. And Biden did not say whether he planned to reduce the number of troops in Iraq, which is now about 2,500.
The announcement comes on the heels of Biden’s decision to withdraw completely from Afghanistan, nearly 20 years after the US started that war in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Together, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have heavily taxed the US military and prevented it from paying more attention to a growing China, which the Biden administration calls the biggest long-term security challenge.
Over the years, US troops have played supporting roles in Iraq and neighboring Syria, which was the core of Islamic State The group that crossed the border in 2014 and occupied large areas of Iraqi territory prompted the US to send troops back to Iraq that year.
while talking to reporters during a Oval Office Session with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, Biden said his administration remains committed to a partnership with Iraq – a relationship that has become increasingly complicated by Iranian-backed Iraqi militia groups.
Militias want all US troops to leave Iraq immediately and have been attacking US military positions from time to time.
Dan Caldwell, a senior advisor at Veterans worried for America, said US troops would be at risk.
“Whether their deployment is called a combat mission or not, US troops will continue to be attacked regularly as long as they remain in Iraq,” Caldwell said in a statement.
“A US military presence in Iraq is not essential to our security and only risks the loss of more American lives.”
Biden said the US military would continue to help Iraq in its fight against the Islamic State group, or ISIS. A joint US-Iraq statement said the security relationship will focus on training, advising and sharing of intelligence.
“Our shared fight against ISIS is critical to the stability of the region and our counter-terrorism campaign will continue even as we move into this new phase that we’re going to talk about,” Biden said.
The change from a US combat role focused on training and advising Iraqi security forces was announced in April, when a joint US-Iraqi statement said that the transition prevented any remaining US combat forces from Iraq at one point. allowed to be removed from the table. determined later.
It did not specify what war activities the US was engaged in at the time, nor did Biden get into such specifics on Monday.
“We’re not going to be in a combat mission, until the end of the year,” he said.
white House Press Secretary Jen Psaki declined to say how many troops would be in Iraq by the end of the year.
“The numbers will be driven by what is needed for the mission over time, so it’s more about moving toward mentorship and training capability than what we’ve had over the past several years,” she said.
US military presence has been around 2,500 since late last year when then-President Donald Trump ordered a reduction from 3,000.
In 2017 the Iraqi government declared victory over the Islamic State group, which is now a shell of its former self. Nevertheless, it has shown that it can carry out high casualty attacks. Last week, the group claimed responsibility for a roadside bombing that killed at least 30 people and injured dozens in a busy suburban Baghdad market.
In his remarks with Biden, al-Kadhimi thanked the United States for its support.
Back home, al-Kadhimi has no shortage of problems. Iranian-backed militias operating inside Iraq have intensified attacks against US forces in recent months, and a series of devastating hospital fires that killed dozens and rising coronavirus infections added new layers of gloom to the nation. have been given.
For al-Kadhimi, the ability to offer the Iraqi public a date for the end of the US war presence could be a feather in his hat ahead of the October elections.
Biden administration officials say al-Kadhimi also deserves credit for improving Iraq’s situation in the Middle East. Last month, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi visited Baghdad for joint meetings – the first official visit by an Egyptian president since the 1990s, when ties were torn apart. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.
The Iraqi prime minister made it clear before his visit to Washington that he believed it was time for the US to end that mission.
“There is no need for any foreign combat forces on Iraqi soil,” al-Kadhimi told The. The Associated Press last weekend.
The US mission to train and mentor Iraqi forces began in 2014 with President Barack Obama’s decision to send troops back to Iraq.
The move was made in response to the Islamic State group’s takeover of large parts of western and northern Iraq and the collapse of Iraqi security forces threatening Baghdad. Obama completely withdrew US forces from Iraq in 2011, eight years after the US invasion.
pentagon For years officials have tried to balance a foreign military presence in Iraq as a necessary military presence to support the Iraqi government’s fight against IS with domestic political sensitivity.
The vulnerability of US troops was displayed most dramatically in January 2020 when Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on al-Assad air base in western Iraq. No Americans were killed, but dozens suffered brain injuries from the explosions.
The attack came soon after a US drone strike at Baghdad International Airport killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.


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