SULAIMANI [Kurdistan Region] – Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said that his country no longer needs the American combat faces on its lands to combat Islamic State (ISIS) militants group, ahead of the fourth round of strategic dialogue with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington starting this week on Monday.
Iraq will still ask for U.S. trains and military intelligence gathering, Kadhimi said during an interview with The Associated Press.
“There is no need for any foreign combat forces on Iraqi soil,” the Iraqi premier told the AP
, falling short of declaring a deadline for a US troops rollout.
Iraq’s security forces and army are capable of defending the country without US-led coalition troops, he said.
Nearly four years after defeating ISIS territorially, but the militant group is still active in the country through its sleeper cells, staging hit-and-run attacks, abductions and movements, especially in the disputed areas claimed by Erbil and Baghdad and borders with Syria.
The disputed areas are a belt of territories stretching from Nineveh to Saladin, Kirkuk and to Diyala governorate. There is a security vacuum in the disputed areas between defense lines of the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces.
“The war against ISIS and the readiness of our forces requires a special timetable, and this depends on the negotiations that we will conduct in Washington,” he said.
There are currently about 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq, who are in Iraq in the framework of the US-led global coalition against ISIS militants founded in 2014.
In January 2020, the Iraqi parliament issued a non-binding resolution for the expulsion of the foreign military forces from Iraq following the assassination of an Iranian extaterretsial commander and a senior Shia leader.
In the third round of the talks in April, Iraq and the U.S. agreed that the latter’s forces will change their mission to train-and-advise, but they did not set a timetable for completing that transition.
Biden and al-Kadhimi is expected to specify a timeline, possibly by the end of this year.
In Monday’s meeting at the White House, the two leaders are expected to
“What we want from the U.S. presence in Iraq is to support our forces in training and developing their efficiency and capabilities, and in security cooperation,” al-Kadhimi said.
The withdrawal of the foreign forces including the US ones will service to mitigate tensions between US and militia groups aligned with Iran.
Iraq has become an arena for the US and Iran for settling their conflicts. Iran holds a sway in Iraq through militia groups close to it.
Iran-backed militia groups intermittently stage rocket and drone attacks against US assets and troops. US have conducted at least two airstrikes against the militia groups in Iraq and Syria under Biden’s administration since taking office in late January.
“Iraq has a set of American weapons that need maintenance and training. We will ask the American side to continue to support our forces and develop our capabilities,” al-Kadhimi told the AP.
The incumbent premier took office in May 2020 from his predecessor Adil Abdul Mahdi who stepped down under pressure from anti-government protesters. Al-Kadhimi made several promises including an early election for June 6, but the election was delayed to October 10.
Firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s coalition and Iraq’s oldest political party Iraqi Communist Party have withdrawal from participating in the election.