According to a report from Middle East Eye, Washington and Baghdad agreed on Wednesday that all foreign combat troops operating under the umbrella of the US-led military coalition will withdraw from Iraq, although a timetable is not clear. The US is also leaving open to the possibility of keeping “training” forces in the country.
The report cited an unnamed Iraqi negotiator and said the timetable on the withdrawal would be determined at a later date. “Timelines for withdrawal will be agreed upon later through technical military committees that will be formed on both sides to decide the required time limits,” the negotiator said.
The negotiator also said that the two sides agreed to change the mission of the US-led coalition to a training role. “The two sides have also agreed to change the role of the coalition to be a consultant, limited to providing training and support when needed,” he said.
The State Department released a statement on the talks that said the US and Iraq agreed to change the role of the coalition and hinted at a possible withdrawal.
“Based on the increasing capacity of the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces], the parties confirmed that the mission of US and Coalition forces has now transitioned to one focused on training and advisory tasks, thereby allowing for the redeployment of any remaining combat forces from Iraq, with the timing to be established in upcoming technical talks,” the State Department said.
Last August, the Trump administration reached a similar agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, although a timeline was never established. Kadhimi has been under intense domestic pressure to formally request a withdrawal of US forces.
Iraqi officials have been calling for a withdrawal of US forces since the January 2020 assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by a US drone strike alongside Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who headed the Popular Mobilization Forces. In the aftermath of the assassinations, Iraq’s parliament voted unanimously to expel US troops.
The Trump administration left 2,500 troops in Iraq. It’s not clear how many of these soldiers the Biden administration would want to leave for “training” purposes. It’s also not clear if leaving any troops would be acceptable to the elements of the Iraqi government that want Washington out of their country.