According to a report from Politico, the US and Iraq will soon announce a shift in Washington’s mission in Iraq from a combat mission to a “purely advisory” role. US and Iraqi officials met on Thursday for talks to finalize details, and the announcement is expected on Monday after President Biden meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
The change in policy would technically end the US “combat” mission in Iraq and could result in a troop drawdown, but sources told Politico that “a number of US service members will remain in Iraq indefinitely.” There are currently about 2,500 US troops in Iraq under the umbrella of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition.
The Politico report said the announcement will put an end date on the US “combat” mission in Iraq. But sources stressed that the withdrawal of US troops “in the near future is not being seriously discussed.”
A US official told The Wall Street Journal that the shift would not change the number of troops in Iraq. “It is not really a numerical adjustment but rather a functional clarification of what the force would be doing consistent with our strategic priorities,” the official said.
Earlier this week, Kadhimi said he wants continued support from the US but that “combat troops” must leave. The Iraqi leader has been under pressure to get US forces to leave since he came into office in May 2020. In January 2020, Iraq’s parliament voted unanimously to expel US forces after Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in Baghdad by a US drone strike.
Kadhimi has been under more pressure since President Biden bombed Iraqi militias in Iraq and Syria last month. Since Biden’s airstrikes, attacks on US bases in Iraq have stepped up. There are many elements inside Iraq that want US occupation forces to leave, and Washington keeping troops in the country, regardless of the role they claim, will almost certainly not be acceptable to them.