Biden will meet with Iraq’s prime minister and announce a “new phase” of US deployment.
President Joe Biden, who will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi on Monday, is anticipated to announce the start of a “new phase” of US military operations in Iraq, technically ending combat operations but refraining from announcing a full departure.
The president’s meeting with Kadhemi, a weaker leader under heavy pressure from pro-Tehran armed elements who demand the evacuation of 2,500 US troops currently stationed in Iraq, will focus on the US troop presence there.
However, the question of whether Baghdad has the capability to combat remaining Islamic State terrorist cells in the country remains unanswered.
Despite Iraqi officials declared the Sunni extremists crushed over three years ago, IS – also known as ISIS – claimed a suicide attack at a Baghdad market that killed 30 people just last week.
“We’re talking about changing to a new phase in the campaign,” a senior Biden administration official said Monday, “in which we very much complete the combat operation against ISIS and turn to an advisory and training mission by the end of the year.”
By the end of 2021, the official expected that “further changes” would be made.
“Iraq has requested, and we agree, that they require continuing training, logistical support, intelligence, and advisory capacity building – all of which will be provided,” the person added.
Technically, there are no actual combat soldiers on the ground in Iraq; the US military has merely deployed advisors and trainers there.
However, the official, who declined to provide precise figures, stated that the adjustment was “much more than semantics.”
The US president and Iraqi leader will meet at 2:00 p.m. Washington time (1800 GMT), and while no joint press conference has been scheduled, a statement will be made.
Approximately 2,500 US troops remain in Iraq as part of an anti-IS coalition, with the possibility of more special forces, whose numbers are unknown.
With three months until legislative elections, Kadhemi, whose country has been wrecked by a trifecta of violence, poverty, and corruption, is expecting to reclaim some ground with powerful pro-Iran elements who are openly hostile to US participation.
US forces in Iraq have been repeatedly attacked by pro-Iran militias, who have been met with military retaliation from Washington.
For the United States, which heads the international coalition fighting, Iraq is a critical strategic link. Brief News from Washington Newsday.