FILE PHOTO: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is pictured at the prime minister’s office in Baghdad, Iraq, June 4, 2020. Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout via REUTERS
CAIRO (Reuters) – Iraq and the United States affirmed their commitment to the reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq, a statement from the two countries said, as officials discussed Washington’s future relationship with Baghdad.
“Over the coming months the U.S. would continue reducing forces from Iraq and discuss with the Government of Iraq the status of remaining forces,” the statement, published on Thursday, said.
Since 2014, the primary mission of U.S. troops deployed in Iraq has been defeating the Islamic State militant group. Officials in the U.S.-led coalition say Iraqi forces are now mostly able to handle the insurgents on their own.
Western military trainers are expected to remain in Iraq, but it is not clear how many. The United States has had around 5,000 troops stationed in the country, and coalition allies another 2,500.
An earlier newsflash by Iraq’s state news agency cited Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi as saying there would be a total withdrawal of troops. The article was later removed.
Iraq’s parliament had voted earlier this year for the departure of foreign troops from Iraq, and United States and other coalition troops have been leaving as part of a drawdown.
The two countries’ joint statement said Washington will discuss with the Iraqi government the status of the remaining forces, stressing it does not seek permanent bases or a permanent military presence in Iraq.
U.S. economic advisers might also be provided to help Iraq with economic reform efforts. The financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and low global oil prices have hit Iraqis hard. Oil exports generate almost all of OPEC member Iraq’s state revenue.
Reporting by Samar Hassan and John Davison; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Lincoln Feast and Steve Orlofsky