A senior Iraqi legislator has dismissed attempts aimed at reclassification of American forces currently stationed in Iraq despite Baghdad’s repeated insistence on pulling out the troops from the country, stressing anti-terror resistance groups will not accept the continued presence of foreign forces.
“We knew very well from the beginning that the United States was not intending a military withdrawal from Iraq, and was postponing it to a later date under various false pretexts,” Mahdi Taqi Amerli, a member of the Security and Defense Committee at the Iraqi Parliament, told Arabic-language Baghdad Today news website on Monday.
He noted, “Iraqi political factions as well as resistance groups will never accept the presence of US forces in Iraq under any other name. The Iraqi legislature will carefully review the results of the talks on a full US troop withdrawal from the country.”
“We will closely follow up on the matter, and will take a firm stance if Americans or the Iraqi government would push back its implementation,” Amerli pointed out.
American daily newspaper The New York Times reported on Saturday that the US military presence in Iraq is not “expected to change” even though government officials and various factions demand the withdrawal of US troops still deployed in the country.
The report said the Pentagon has no intention of pulling out any of the 2,500 US troops stationed in Iraq and aims to simply rename on paper the combat role given to the soldiers to logistics specialists, advisers, trainers and the likes.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has headed to Washington and is scheduled to hold talks with US President Joe Biden on Monday to discuss “the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq.”
He had told Iraqi media that his visit to Washington would “put an end to the presence of combat forces” in Iraq.
A senior US official familiar with ongoing discussions with Iraq told The New York Times, “There will be no US military forces in a combat role by the end of the year. We anticipate some force adjustments in line with that commitment.”
Mohammad al-Rubai’e, a political spokesman for the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq resistance movement, a subdivision of Popular Mobilization Units – better known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, denounced the act of changing the name of US occupation forces in Iraq.
“Changing their name from combat forces to trainers and advisers — we consider it an attempt at deception,” he said.
Last month, The Wall Street Journal daily newspaper, citing a senior Pentagon official as saying, reported that the United States planned to maintain its military presence in the Middle East region.
“We still maintain tens of thousands of forces in the region, we still have forces in Iraq and Syria, those forces aren’t leaving. We still have our bases in the countries of our Persian Gulf partners, they aren’t shutting down, there is still substantial presence, substantial posture in the region,” the official said.
Anti-US sentiment has been growing in Iraq since last year's assassination of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units, along with the region's legendary anti-terror commander General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.
They were targeted along with their companions on January 3, 2020 in a terror drone strike authorized by former US president Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport.
Two days after the attack, Iraqi lawmakers approved a bill that requires the government to end the presence of all foreign military forces led by the US.