Shia parties welcome U.S.-Iraq agreement on withdrawal of combat forces

A U.S. soldier runs at a coalition forces forward base near West Mosul, Iraq June 21, 2017. (Reuters photo)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Iraq’s Shia parties on Tuesday welcomed the decision of the United States to withdraw combat forces in the country.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi who met in the Oval Office on Monday sealed an agreement formally ending the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021, more than 18 years after U.S. troops were sent to the country.

It was their first face-to-face talks as part of a strategic dialogue between the United States and Iraq.

Iraq’s Fateh alliance, led by Hadi al-Amiri, welcomed the agreement in a statement early on Tuesday, according state news agency INA.

“The al-Fateh alliance welcomes the national achievement of the Iraqi negotiator by agreeing to the complete exit of combat forces at the end of this year,” the alliance said.

Al-Fateh alliance further said it considered it as a “positive and advanced step” towards preserving full national sovereignty.

There are currently 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq focusing on countering the remnants of Islamic State (ISIS). The U.S. 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 United States has already moved toward focusing on training Iraqi forces.

Iraq’s Nasr Alliance led by Haidar al-Abadi also welcomed the results of the fourth round of U.S.-Iraq strategic dialogue.

“The results of the negotiations were due to efforts made by al-Kadhimi government and the support of national parties for Iraq’s interests and sovereignty,” it said.

Head of al-Hikma Movement Ammar Hakim also praised the government’s delegation, which he said was successful in the negotiations with U.S. officials.

“The support of Iraqi parties helped the delegation achieve the outcome,” he added.

Coupled with Biden’s withdrawal of the last American forces in Afghanistan by the end of August, the Democratic president is completing U.S. combat missions in the two wars that then-President George W. Bush began under his watch.

“Our role in Iraq will be … to be available, to continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS as it arises, but we’re not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission,” Biden told reporters as he and Kadhimi met.

In recent years the U.S. mission was dominated by helping defeat ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria.

A joint statement by the U.S. and Iraqi governments said the United States intended to continue its support for the Iraqi forces, including the Peshmerga, to build their capacity to deal with future threats.

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