Iraq’s prime minister says there is no need for the US-led or any other foreign combat troops to be present on Iraqi soil in light of the capability of the Iraqi security forces and army to defend the country on their own.
“There is no need for any foreign combat forces on Iraqi soil,” Mustafa al-Kadhimi said in an interview with the Associated Press, noting that any withdrawal schedule for foreign forces would be based on the needs of Iraqi forces, who have shown themselves capable in the last year of conducting independent missions against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.
“The war against [Daesh] and the readiness of our forces require a special timetable, and this depends on the negotiations that we will conduct in Washington,” Kadhimi said, ahead of a planned trip to Washington for the fourth round of strategic talks between the two countries.
Kadhimi is scheduled to meet US President Joe Biden on Monday to push for a concrete timetable for the withdrawal of US troops.
Currently, there are approximately 2,500 US troops in Iraq.
In April, the two countries agreed that the US transition to a train-and-advise mission requires the withdrawal of combat troops. No timetable for the withdrawal was set, however.
“What we want from the US presence in Iraq is to support our forces in training and developing their efficiency and capabilities, and in security cooperation,” Kadhimi said.
Iraq has a set of American weapons that require maintenance and training, he added. “We will ask the American side to continue to support our forces and develop our capabilities.”
Iraq declared victory over Daesh in late 2017. The campaign saw popular anti-terror forces joining hands to annihilate the infamous group.
The defeat of Daesh was followed by Washington’s cowardly act of terror in assassinating Iran’s prominent General Qassem Soleimani along with Deputy Commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization United (PMU) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis – who both fought Daesh – at the Baghdad International Airport in January 2020.
The assassination prompted the Iraqi parliament to vote for the expulsion of all foreign forces from the country.
Parliamentarians oppose US military’s advisory role in Iraq
Ahead of the premier's Washington visit, Iraqi lawmakers and political figures have indicated their opposition to the presence of the US military in their country, even in the capacity of advisors.
Muhammad al-Baldawi, a member of parliament, said on Sunday that the continuation of the US military presence in Iraq is in support of terrorism and will lead to problems inside the Arab country.
“The parliament has underscored the need for US troops to leave Iraq,” said Baldawi, a member of Iraqi Al-Fatah (Conquest) Alliance, according to Iraqi media.
“Iraq is facing many problems due to US interventions, especially in the field of electricity and support for terrorism. [Iraqi] governments have failed to boost services in the past because of US interventions.”
Nasr al-Shammari, a spokesman for Iraq's al-Nujaba Movement, said Iraq is in no need of American forces, neither for training nor for an advisory role.
“Americans' training and advisory [role] is an insult to Iraqi forces. We do not tolerate the presence of foreign forces on Iraqi soil.”
Shammari also warned that Iraqi resistance forces will target foreign forces, including NATO forces, in the country.
Hassan Salem, another member of al-Fatah Alliance, said Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein was implementing the United States’ demands in Iraq, adding that it was about time Hussein resigned.
Hussein has said Baghdad still required Washington’s help, and called for maintaining bilateral security cooperation. The minister has drawn a sharp rebuke from Iraqi resistance groups.
“We need to work with the International Coalition, led by the United States, against the terrorists of Daesh,” Hussein said during a joint press conference alongside his US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Friday.
“We need cooperation in the field of intelligence. We need help with training. We need troops to help us in the air.”