Iraqi Primer: Baghdad, Washington Affirm Commitment to US Troop Withdrawal
By Staff, Agencies
Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi says Baghdad and Washington have affirmed their commitment to the withdrawal of US troops from the Arab country, months after Iraqi lawmakers passed a resolution calling on the government to end all foreign troop presence.
Kadhimi, however, did not give any timeline for the troop pullout.
The prime minister said the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue by video conference discussed the future of the presence of American forces, and recognized the Iraqi parliament's decision on the pullout of foreign troops from the country.
It was, however, unclear whether that would include military trainers, who were purportedly deployed in Iraq after 2014 to support government forces in the fight against the Wahhabi Daesh [Arabic acronym for “ISIS”? terrorist group.
“The two countries recognized that in light of significant progress towards eliminating the Daesh threat, over the coming months the US would continue reducing forces from Iraq,” a joint statement said, without giving figures and a timeline.
“The United States reiterated that it does not seek nor request permanent bases or a permanent military presence in Iraq,” it claimed.
Iraq, in turn, promised to protect bases housing US troops in the wake of a series of rocket attacks against the military sites.
Iraqi legislator Abbas al-Zameli has described the country’s sovereignty as the red line in negotiations between Baghdad and Washington.
“We have a fundamental and major point as regards Iraq-US talks. Anything can be negotiated except for the country's sovereignty and independence, as they are considered as a red line,” Zameli said in an exclusive interview with Arabic-language al-Maalomah news agency.
He added, “We support the prime minister in his efforts to safeguard the sovereignty of Iraq and remove all foreign forces from the country. We cannot comprise on the withdrawal of all foreign forces, including Americans, from the country.”
Hassan al-Fadam, a lawmaker from the National Wisdom Movement political coalition, said the presence of US forces in Iraq has become a source of concern for many regional countries, emphasizing that the parliament is closely monitoring the course of dialogue between Washington and Baghdad.
“The Council of Representatives supports the dialogue between the United States and Iraq, and is keeping an eye on the outcomes of the talks. It is necessary to review the strategic agreement with the US and expedite the departure of the [American] forces, which has become a source of concern and annoyance for many countries in the region,” Fadam told al-Maalomah news agency.
He added, “Our security forces and the Popular Mobilization Units are able to score territorial gains without the need from any foreign forces. The dialogue should be within the context of Iraq’s need to keep some of the trainers, and that their presence should be under the supervision of the Iraqi government.”
Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill on January 5, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country following the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of Iraq's PMU, and their companions in a US airstrike authorized by President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport two days earlier.
Later on January 9, former Iraqi Prime Minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the move.
The 78-year-old politician said Iraq rejected any violation of its sovereignty, particularly the US military's violation of Iraqi airspace in the assassination airstrike.