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Iraqi leader says time for US troops to leave as envoy hints at 'long haul'

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Ammar Hakim, Iraqi Shia cleric and head of National Wisdom Movement (Hikma)

The Iraqi Shia cleric and head of National Wisdom Movement (Hikma) has renewed the call for the withdrawal of foreign troops, especially the Americans, from the Arab country.

“Time is ripe for us to become a country with complete sovereignty, where there are no foreign forces, most importantly the American military personnel,” Ammar Hakim said on Friday.

Hakim also underlined the need for an end to disputes over the country's security institutions and accusations against loyal armed forces, including the anti-terror Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) or Hashd al-Sha’abi.

In early 2003, the US invaded Iraq under the later debunked pretext that the regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

It withdrew soldiers from Iraq between 2007 and 2011, but redeployed them in 2014 along with other partners to allegedly counter the threat of Daesh.

Iraq managed to end the territorial rule of the Takfiri group in the country thanks to the sacrifices of the national army and Hashd al-Sha’abi, which had the backing of neighboring Iran.

On January 3, 2020, the US assassinated Iran’s anti-terror commander General Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Hashd al-Sha’abi, two influential figures in the fight against Daesh.

Two days later, the Iraqi parliament unanimously approved a bill, demanding the expulsion of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the Arab country.

Since then, however, Washington has been dragging its feet on the troop pullout and targeting anti-terror resistance groups from time to time.

Washington and Baghdad recently reached an agreement on the American military’s withdrawal, under which the US will keep its troops on Iraqi soil under the guise of providing advisory assistance to the Iraqi military.

US plans ‘long haul’ in Iraq

US Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller told Kurdish journalists that Washington is committed to Iraq “for the long haul.”

Asked about a possible US pullout from Iraq like the one in Afghanistan, he replied, “I think clearly that is not on the mind of President Biden.”

Biden, he added, “understands the importance of Iraq, the importance of the US to Iraq, the importance of Iraq in the region.”

Without saying it explicitly, Tueller drew a distinction between Afghanistan and Iraq, stressing that the latter is strategic for the US as “the security of the Middle East is the security of Iraq.”

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