Iraq prepares to close down US-led international coalition’s mission

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The Iraqi government is forming a committee to prepare the closing down of the US-led international coalition’s mission in the country, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani’s office said on Friday.

Al-Sudani’s statement came a day after a US strike killed a militia leader in Baghdad, prompting anger among Iran-aligned groups which demanded the government end the presence of the coalition in Iraq.

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“[The] government is setting the date for the start of the bilateral committee to put arrangements to end the presence of the international coalition forces in Iraq permanently,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

The committee would include representatives of the military coalition, a government official said.

The US military launched Thursday’s strike in retaliation against recent attacks on US personnel, the Pentagon said.

The United States has 900 troops in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq on a mission it says aims to advise and assist local forces trying to prevent a resurgence of ISIS, which in 2014 seized large parts of both countries before being defeated.

Iran-aligned militia groups in Iraq and Syria oppose Israel’s campaign in the Gaza Strip and hold the US partly responsible.

Al-Sudani has limited control over some Iran-backed factions, whose support he needed to win power a year ago and who now form a powerful bloc in his governing coalition.

“We stress our firm position in ending the existence of the international coalition after the justifications for its existence have ended,” al-Sudani was quoted as saying in the statement.

ISIS claimed responsibility on Thursday for two explosions in Iran that killed nearly 100 people and wounded scores at a memorial for top commander Qassem Soleimani.

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