US pledges Iraq troops withdrawal, no date so far

Photo: AP

The United States committed to move all remaining combat forces from Iraq without setting a clear timeline, news wires reported. The first "strategic dialogue" with Iraq under US President Joe Biden's administration comes as Iranian-linked Shiite paramilitary groups fire rockets on daily basis at bases with foreign troops.

The two nations agreed in a videoconference led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein that Iraqi forces were ready to take on more responsibility. "The parties confirmed that the mission of US and coalition forces has now transitioned to one focused on training and advisory tasks, thereby allowing for the redeployment of any remaining combat forces from Iraq, with the timing to be established in upcoming technical talks," a joint statement said.

Iraq has walked a fine line in balancing its relations between the US and Iran, which shares religious ties with its Shiite-majority neighbour. Iraqi calls soared for a withdrawal of US troops in January 2020 after former president Donald Trump ordered the assassination in Baghdad of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and tensions have remained high.

Biden, in a rare point of agreement with Trump, has been looking for ways to wind down what have come to be dubbed "endless wars." Trump had ordered a drawdown in his final months from Iraq as well as Afghanistan with the number of US troops in each country dipping to 2,500 by January 15.

Iraq's national security advisor, Qassem al-Araji, promised efforts to protect foreign forces and confirmed that the US would move ahead with a pullout. "The American side promised to withdraw an important number of its troops from Iraq," he said.

The Pentagon declined to specify a timeline for a withdrawal, saying it would be worked out in the technical talks. "We've all been working to an eventual redeployment," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters, "when there's no need for American support on the ground."

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