A Biden administration official denied that the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq was discussed in a Thursday meeting between Iraqi leaders and Brett McGurk, President Biden’s top Middle East official on the National Security Council.
The office of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi shared a statement with Newsweek that said McGurk discussed pulling out troops. “The mechanisms for withdrawing combat forces from Iraq and moving to a new phase of strategic cooperation that develops the relationship between the two countries and enhances Iraq’s security and sovereignty were discussed,” the statement said.
Kadhimi’s office shared a similar statement on Twitter. A senior Biden administration official told Newsweek that the statement about the discussions over troop withdrawal “is not true.”
Since taking office in March 2020, Kadhimi has been under pressure to get US troops to leave Iraq. In January 2020, after the US assassinated Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Iraq’s parliament voted unanimously to expel US forces.
Considering President Biden has been bombing Iraqi militias in Iraq and Syria, Kadhimi is under even more pressure now to get US troops to leave. In April, the US said it agreed to enter a “strategic dialogue” with Iraq. In a statement on the planned dialogue, the State Department said the role of US forces in Iraq had shifted to an advisory one and hinted at a possible drawdown of “combat” troops. The statement was likely an effort to placate the elements in Iraq’s government that want the US to leave.
There are currently about 2,500 US troops in Iraq operating under the umbrella of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition. No timetable has been set for a drawdown, and judging by the fact that the US is denying a possible withdrawal was even discussed on Thursday, the Biden administration likely has no plans to pull troops out.