Biden, Kadhimi seal pact to end US combat mission in Iraq
July 27 2021 12:39 AM
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US President Joe Biden listens to Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, yesterday.

Reuters/Washington

US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi yesterday sealed an agreement formally ending the US combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021, more than 18 years after US troops were sent to the country.
Coupled with Biden’s withdrawal of the last American forces in Afghanistan by the end of August, the Democratic president is completing US combat missions in the two wars that then-President George W Bush began under his watch.
Biden and Kadhimi met in the Oval Office for their first face-to-face talks as part of a strategic dialogue between the United States and Iraq.
“Our role in Iraq will be...to be available, to continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS as it arises, but we’re not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission,” Biden told reporters as he and Kadhimi met.
There are currently 2,500 US troops in Iraq focusing on countering the remnants of Islamic State. The US role in Iraq will shift entirely to training and advising the Iraqi military to defend itself. The shift is not expected to have a major impact since the United States has already moved toward focusing on training Iraqi forces. A US-led coalition invaded Iraq in March 2003 based on charges that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s government possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Saddam was ousted from power, but such weapons were never found.
In recent years the US mission was dominated by helping defeat Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
“Nobody is going to declare mission accomplished. The goal is the enduring defeat of ISIS,” a senior administration official told reporters ahead of Kadhimi’s visit. The reference was reminiscent of the large “Mission Accomplished” banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier above where Bush gave a speech declaring major combat operations over in Iraq on May 1, 2003.
“If you look to where we were, where we had Apache helicopters in combat, when we had US special forces doing regular operations, it’s a significant evolution.
So by the end of the year we think we’ll be in a good place to really formally move into an advisory and capacity-building role,” the official said.
US diplomats and troops in Iraq and Syria were targeted in three rocket and drone attacks earlier this month.



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