Washington: President Joe Biden announced July 26 that US troops will no longer serve in a combat role in Iraq, a largely symbolic move given that it has been years since Americans led combat operations there.
About 2,500 troops are deployed to Iraq currently, focused on training and support missions. Neither Biden nor White House officials would specify if that number will drop considerably in coming months.
After the announcement, Pentagon officials said there were no “operational updates” about troops deployed to the region.
During an afternoon meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, the US president said that American forces will be available “to continue to train, to assist, to help, and to deal with ISIS as it arises” in the country.
“But we’re not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission,” Biden added. US combat troops no longer needed to fight ISIS in Iraq, prime minister says. Mustafa al-Kadhimi said Iraq will still ask for US training and military intelligence gathering.
For his part, Al-Kadhimi offered thanks to the American people “for all the blood and treasure America has given for a free and democratic Iraq.” Of the changes in military posture, he said that the two countries’ relationship “is stronger than ever.”
US troops haven’t been leading combat missions in Iraq for years. White House press secretary Jen Psaki earlier in the day described the move as the first step in a “a change in mission” for American military personnel there.
What exactly will change for troops on the ground in Iraq is unclear. “I’d refer you to the Joint Statement on the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue,” Army Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement. “The Department does not have any operational updates to provide at this time.”
The US “reaffirmed its respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and laws and pledged to continue providing the resources Iraq needs to preserve its territorial integrity,” according to the text of that agreement released by the State Department July 26 afternoon. “The Government of Iraq reaffirmed its commitment to protect Coalition personnel advising and enabling the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and reasserted its position that all Coalition Forces are in Iraq at its invitation.”
The two delegations also emphasized that the bases hosting US and other coalition personnel “are Iraqi bases and are operating per existing Iraqi laws; they are not US or Coalition bases, and the presence of international personnel in Iraq is solely in support of the Government of Iraq’s fight against ISIS.”