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Iraq, US agree to discuss timeline for withdrawal of American troops

US soldiers prepare to board a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during an exercise at Ain al-Asad Air Base in Iraq on July 7, 2023. (Photo by US Army)

Iraq's foreign ministry says Baghdad and Washington have agreed to set up a committee to start talks to set a timetable for a phased withdrawal of American forces from the Arab country.

In a statement released on Thursday, the ministry said the talks on the future of the US-led military coalition in Iraq are set to take place between military officials.

The two countries agreed to form working groups that would eventually lead to formulating "a specific and clear timeline... and to begin the gradual reduction of its (the coalition's) advisers on Iraqi soil," the statement read.

The ministry noted the timeline would be contingent on evaluating the "threat posed by IS and its danger" as well as the "reinforcement of the capacities of the Iraqi security forces."

In a statement, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed meetings "in the coming days" to discuss the "transition" of the coalition based on the outcomes of the Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue held between the two countries in August.

The statement comes days after Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al-Sudani said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that it was necessary to “immediately begin a dialogue, to reach an understanding and a timetable regarding the end of the mission of international advisers.”

Senior Iraqi officials have said the end of the US-led coalition was a necessity for the security and stability of Iraq.

Longstanding calls by Iraqi factions for the US-led coalition’s departure have gained steam in the wake of a series of US strikes on Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), which are part of Iraq’s security forces.

Iraq has condemned the US strikes, not least a recent attack against a senior PMU commander in the heart of Baghdad.

Iraq’s Islamic Resistance, an umbrella group of anti-US armed groups in the country, has conducted dozens of attacks on US bases in support of Gaza’s resistance.

Senior officials in Baghdad say only an end to Israel’s war on the besieged Gaza Strip would stop the risk of a regional escalation.

Iraq says Israel’s mass killing and displacement of the Palestinians is a “textbook example of genocide.”

The US maintains some 2,500 troops in Iraq under the pretext of fighting the Daesh terrorist group, which in 2014 seized large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Daesh was defeated when in November 2017, then commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani declared the end of the terrorist group’s domination of Muslim lands.

In 2020, Iraq's parliament voted for the departure of US forces. Days earlier, General Soleimani and deputy PMU commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis had been assassinated in a cowardly drone strike ordered by then President Donald Trump of the United States outside the Baghdad airport.

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