US, Iraq to Discuss Ending Coalition's Mission

American forces have repeatedly come under fire since Israel-Hamas war began
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 25, 2024 4:15 PM CST
US, Iraq to Discuss Ending Coalition's Mission
Members of an Iraqi Shiite militant group attend the funeral of a fighter with the Kataib Hezbollah, who was killed in a US airstrike, in Baghdad on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

The US and Iraq will begin talks soon to wind down the mission of a US-led military coalition formed to fight the Islamic State group in Iraq, both governments said Thursday. The Pentagon said the size of the American military footprint in the country will be part of the discussions, the AP reports. American forces in Iraq have been increasingly targeted by Iran-backed militias, though the US says that the talks were first discussed last year and that the timing is not related to the attacks. Officials said delegates from Iraq and the US mission in Baghdad will meet for the first time on Saturday to begin setting up the process for the talks.

Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters that the US has received no requests from Iraq to withdraw American troops. But she acknowledged that troop totals will be part of the talks. Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, Iran-backed militants have struck American military installations in Iraq more than 60 times and in Syria more than 90 times, with a mix of drones, rockets, mortars, and ballistic missiles. The situation highlights the risk of the US being drawn into a wider conflict in Iraq and beyond as anger over Israel's bombardment of Gaza and US support for Israel fuels the strikes by Iranian proxies.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that the talks between the US and Iraq are part of a higher military commission that was agreed upon last summer, before the war. The discussions will focus on the "transition to an enduring bilateral security partnership" between the two countries, he said, per the AP. Iraq's foreign ministry said in a statement that Baghdad aims to "formulate a specific and clear timetable that specifies the duration of the presence of international coalition advisors in Iraq" and to "initiate the gradual and deliberate reduction of its advisors on Iraqi soil." The process would eventually lead to the coalition mission's end, the statement said.

(More Iraq stories.)

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