US President Joe Biden said ahead of talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi on Monday that relations were entering a new phase that would include the end of US troop involvement in combat operations in Iraq.
Biden said at the opening of the talks that the US role will be “to continue to train, to assist, to help, to deal with ISIS (Islamic State) as it arises” in Iraq. “But we’re not going to be, at the end of the year, in a combat mission,” he said.
Biden declined to say how many U.S. troops, of the current level of approximately 2,500, will remain there. In a joint statement issued Monday by the United States and Iraq following technical meetings, the two countries said, “The security relationship will fully transition to a training, advising, assisting, and intelligence-sharing role, and that there will be no U.S. forces with a combat role in Iraq by 31 December 2021.”
“This is a shift in mission. It is not a removal of our partnership or our presence or our close engagement with Iraqi leaders,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki explained to reporters just prior to the Oval Office meeting. —AFP