JEDDAH: The US will end its combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year but counterterrorism cooperation with Baghdad will continue, President Joe Biden said on Monday.
In White House talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, Biden said the US role in Iraq would shift to advising and training Iraqi forces to deal with the continuing threat from Daesh, who killed 30 people in a suicide bombing last week at a market in Baghdad.
Biden and Al-Kadhimi met in the Oval Office for their first face-to-face talks as part of a strategic dialogue between the US and Iraq.
“Our role in Iraq will be ... to be available, to continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with Daesh as it arises but we’re not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat zone,” Biden said.
There are currently 2,500 US troops in Iraq focusing on countering the remnants of Daesh.
This afternoon, I’ll be hosting Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi for a meeting in the Oval Office. I look forward to strengthening the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq and working to advance bilateral cooperation.
— President Biden (@POTUS) July 26, 2021
The American role in Iraq will shift entirely to training and advising the Iraqi military to defend itself.
The shift is not expected to have a major impact since the US has already moved toward focusing on training Iraqi forces.
A US-led coalition invaded Iraq in March 2003 to oust the dictator Saddam Hussein. In recent years the US mission was dominated by helping defeat Daesh terrorists in Iraq and Syria and dismantle their “caliphate.”
“Nobody is going to declare mission accomplished. The goal is the enduring defeat of Daesh,” a senior administration official said.
Biden and Al-Kadhimi also discussed Washington’s support for fighting COVID-19, backing for the Iraqi private sector and cooperation on climate change, the White House said.