Iraq News

US announces 'new phase' of Iraq military operations

By Diyaruna and AFP

US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on July 26. [Saul Loeb/AFP]

US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on July 26. [Saul Loeb/AFP]

WASHINGTON -- US relations with Iraq are set to enter a new phase, President Joe Biden said during Monday (July 26) talks with Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi, with US troops slated to exit combat operations in Iraq by year-end.

The United States remains "committed to our security co-operation", Biden said, while Kadhemi reaffirmed the "strategic partnership" between the two nations, which have together battled the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).

Biden stressed that US troops in Iraq will "continue to train, to assist, to help, to deal with ISIS as [the need] arises".

But he confirmed that the 2,500 US troops still in Iraq will not be fighting.

"We're not going to be, at the end of the year, in a combat mission," he said.

Since last year, the principal role of the remaining US troops in Iraq has been to train, advise and support their Iraqi counterparts to battle ISIS.

A US State Department statement on the lower-level bilateral meetings that accompanied the summit emphasised US respect for Iraq's sovereignty.

"The bases hosting US and other coalition personnel are Iraqi bases and are operating per existing Iraqi laws; they are not US or coalition bases, and the presence of international personnel in Iraq is solely in support of the government of Iraq's fight against ISIS," it said.

Other types of assistance

The United States has turned its focus to other types of assistance to Iraq.

Some 500,000 coronavirus vaccine doses pledged to Baghdad "will be there in a couple weeks", Biden told Kadhemi in the White House.

Biden also emphasised US support for elections in October in Iraq, saying Washington is working closely with Baghdad, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) and the United Nations to ensure the elections are fair.

"We support strengthening Iraq's democracy and we're anxious to make sure the election goes forward," he said.

Kadhemi said he was in Washington "to discuss the future of our nation".

"America, they help Iraq. Together we fight, fight and defeat ISIS," he said.

"Today, our relation is stronger than ever -- our partnership in the economy, the environment, health, education, culture and more," Kadhemi said.

A US-Iraq Higher Co-ordinating Committee, which met in Washington on Friday, ahead of the summit, underscored the breadth of US support for Iraq.

In addition to vaccine assistance, the United States announced $155 million in additional humanitarian assistance to provide shelter, healthcare, food, water and hygiene services across Iraq.

The United States plans to provide technical assistance for renewable energy and climate adaptation, and discussed with Iraq ways to advance vital energy projects.

The two sides also discussed how the United States could best support the Iraqi government to protect protesters, activists, women in public life and journalists, as well as pursue judicial accountability for violent crimes against them.

And US support for higher education, science and culture includes a commitment to vocational training and assistance for archaeological preservation projects in Babil, Mosul and Erbil, as well as other vulnerable sites.

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