The United States and Iraq said Wednesday that they have agreed on the eventual withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq.
Statements issued by both sides, however, said the timing of such a redeployment would be determined in upcoming technical talks, without specifying when they would take place. They also stressed the need for continued security cooperation.
The talks — held virtually because of the pandemic — began in June under the Trump administration. Wednesday’s round, the first under President Joe Biden, centered on an array of issues, including the presence of US troops in Iraq.
In a joint statement following a round of talks between US and Iraqi officials, the two governments said the mission of US forces was now focused on training Iraqi troops to fight the ISIL terrorist group, also known as Daesh. As a result, combat troops would no longer be necessary in the future, the statement said.
About 2,500 US service members are in Iraq, according to the Defense Department. It’s not clear how many of them could be considered combat troops.
“Based on the increasing capacity of the ISF, 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,” the joint statement said, referring to Iraqi Security Forces.
A State Department statement following the talks said that with increasing capacity of Iraqi security forces, 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.”
The Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, said Wednesday’s statement does not represent an agreement to begin a further withdrawal of US forces.
Iraqi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool said later that Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has ordered the formation of a committee that would hold technical talks with the American side to approve “mechanisms and timings” related to the redeployment.