US President Joe Biden revealed on Monday that the US partnership with Iraq would be continuing for the near future, but that no combat troops would be present after 2021.
A joint statement issued by both American and Iraqi officials stated that no American forces with a combat role would be present in Iraq after December 31, 2021. “The delegations decided, following recent technical talks, that the security relationship will fully transition to a training, advising, assisting, and intelligence-sharing role, and that there will be no US forces with a combat role in Iraq by December 31, 2021,” the release states.
The statement came hours after Biden told reporters during Oval Office talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi that the American combat mission would be shifting more toward a counterterrorism cooperation. At the time, the commander-in-chief had not given any details regarding a timeline for the shift.
The joint release largely reiterates Biden’s earlier statement that the US role would specifically move toward advising and training purposes as part of a larger effort to ensure Iraqi forces will be able to fight off any spike in tensions with Daesh militant forces.
Also noted during the highly-anticipated Monday meeting was the Biden administration’s intentions to deliver doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Iraq, which has been recording thousands of new COVID-19 cases.
Earlier, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during the Monday briefing that shifting missions in Iraq was a “natural step in these ongoing dialogues.”
“This is a shift in mission, not a removal of our partnership or close engagements with Iraqi leadership,” she stressed at the time.
Psaki further indicated that the White House would not be disclosing details on the number of troops the administration intends to have in Iraq by the end of the year.
The press secretary’s comments come days after senior US and Iraqi officials told the Wall Street Journal that American troops could be out of Iraq by the end of 2021.
Talk of US troops being pulled out of Iraq once again have been ongoing for quite some time, more so amid the withdrawal of American forces in nearby Afghanistan. Forces had been temporarily removed from Iraq under the Obama administration; however, they were redeployed following the rise of Daesh forces.
Although the Biden administration has not offered a timeline on such an event, it previously stated that American and Iraqi officials agreed on an eventual withdrawal.