US troops and Coalition forces will “transition” and redeploy their combat forces from Iraq, a joint statement from Washington and Baghdad stated Wednesday.
The announcement came after the third Strategic dialog meeting between US and Iraqi officials at a time when Washington has come under increased pressure to withdraw from Iraq. However, the government in Baghdad asked for help in 2014 to fight ISIS.
With training and assistance over the years, Iraqi security forces have become increasingly more capable of combatting terrorism on their own.
“Based on the increasing capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), the parties confirmed that the mission of the 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 joint statement read.
“Both countries reaffirmed that US forces are in Iraq at the invitation of Iraqi Government to support the [ISF] in their fight against ISIS.”
While US and Iraqi security forces have worked together to fight ISIS, Iranian-backed militias have continuously targeted the US Embassy in Baghdad and its surrounding areas as well as military bases hosting US troops.
Iraqi officials reiterated their commitment to protecting foreign troops and diplomatic facilities, according to Wednesday’s statement.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken led the US delegation during the virtual dialog while his counterpart, Fuad Hussein, led Iraq’s team. Kurdistan Regional Government officials also participated in the talks.
A senior US official told Al Arabiya English that they had “a fantastic strategic dialog session” with Iraq.
“The Iraqi security forces have been making great strides in becoming more capable and having the right equipment and weapons that they need to keep the country safe and stable. And they’re doing an awful lot to try to protect us at the Embassy,” said Joey Hood, acting assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.
“We are there at their invitation; we are their guests. And, so, they know that they have an obligation to protect us, and they reaffirmed that again to us today,” Hood said.