With the launching of the strategic dialogue between the United States and Iraq in Washington, US officials hinted at the possibility of agreeing to the Iraqi “wishes” and the issuance of a statement following US President Joe Biden’s meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi on Monday, announcing in principle that the US forces would leave Iraq by the end of this year.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein had pointed to a new approach sought by Baghdad. He said that Iraq “does not need fighters, but rather intelligence cooperation, military training and air cover.” These demands are at the core of the role that the US forces are still assuming in Iraq.
The US State Department spokesman, Ned Price, was clear in responding to these expectations, saying that he would not anticipate the dialogue and its outcome, but he believed that the joint collective efforts to ensure the defeat of ISIS would be at the top of the agenda.
“Iraq is our partner and our forces are there. At the request of the government, we are working in coordination with them against common challenges,” he stated.
American and Iraqi officials were quoted as saying that the aim of the statement was to enable Al-Kadhimi to relieve the political pressure exerted by the Iraqi hardline factions loyal to Iran, who want the withdrawal of all US forces from the country.
A US official said that Washington was planning to redefine the role of some forces in Iraq, rather than reducing the US presence, according an article published by The Wall Street Journal.
In a statement, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that the first round of the strategic dialogue discussed bilateral security relations between the United States and Iraq, the long-term security collaboration and areas of cooperation outside the scope of counter-terrorism.
Kirby also stressed the renewal of the two countries’ joint commitment to eliminating ISIS, and the need to enable the US-led coalition to safely support the Iraqi security forces.
The Iraqi Joint Operations Command also said that it had held a meeting with its US counterpart, during which talks focused on the future of the strategic security relationship.
According to US experts, the changes demanded by the Iraqis in the current dialogue session would not have an impact on the daily tasks of the US forces, which are already carrying out the duties demanded by the Iraqi foreign minister.
The US forces practically do not carry out any combat missions, outside the scope of coordination with the Iraqi forces in their campaigns against terrorism. But they engage in combat operations only when exposed to attacks, as is happening now, and this is a legitimate right, according to US officials.
Pending the release of the statement, which is supposed to explain the modification in the role of US forces, US and Iraqi officials did not provide details on how the withdrawal of combat forces would take place and how the statement could be interpreted to allow for essential missions.