US combat forces to leave Iraq by end of year

US President Joe Biden has announced that American combat forces will leave Iraq by the end of this year, though troops will continue to train and advise the Iraqi military. The announcement of ending US military’s combat mission came after Mr Biden held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi at the White House, the last day.

US President alongside the Iraqi Prime Minister said, we support strengthening Iraq’s democracy and we are anxious to make sure the election goes forward in October. We are also committed to our security cooperation, our shared fight against ISIS, he added. Mr Biden told the Iraqi prime minister our counter-terrorism co-operation will continue even as we shift to this new phase. The US presence in Iraq has become a major issue since top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and the leader of an Iran-backed Shia Muslim militia were killed in a US drone strike in the capital Baghdad last year. Political parties aligned to Iran have demanded the withdrawal of all forces from the US-led global coalition against IS, despite the continuing threat posed by the Sunni jihadist group. Shia militias have meanwhile been accused by the US of carrying out hundreds of rocket, mortar and drone attacks on Iraqi military bases that host coalition forces in an apparent attempt to pressure them to leave.

There are currently 2,500 US troops in Iraq. US-led forces invaded Iraq in 2003 to overthrow President Saddam Hussein and eliminate weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist. US combat troops eventually withdrew in 2011. However, they returned at the request of the Iraqi government three years later, when ISIS group overran large parts of the country. For the US president, the announcement marks the end of another war that began under former President George W Bush.