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Joe Biden says U.S. combat mission in Iraq will end later this year

By
Clyde Hughes & Don Jacobson
U.S. President Joe Biden (R) meets Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, Iraq's prime minister, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Pool Photo by Tom Brenner/UPI
U.S. President Joe Biden (R) meets Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, Iraq's prime minister, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Pool Photo by Tom Brenner/UPI | License Photo

July 26 (UPI) -- The United States' combat mission in Iraq will be over by the end of this year, President Joe Biden said at the White House on Monday alongside Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

When asked how long he expected the 2,500 U.S. troops now stationed in the country will remain there, Biden told reporters in the Oval Office the U.S. focus in Iraq will shift to an advisory one before 2021 is over.

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"I think things are going well. Our role in Iraq will be to be available to continue to train, to assist, to help, and to deal with ISIS as it arrives. But we're not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission," he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State militant group.

Biden's announcement came as al-Kahdhimi visited White House to talk about the continued presence of U.S. troops in the country, and possibly changing their role.

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The U.S. military presence in Iraq, which dates to former President George W. Bush, hit a crossroads in January 2020 when a U.S. airstrike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, leader of that country's Revolutionary Guard Corps, while he was in Iraq.

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Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of an Iranian-supported militia group and an Iraqi military official, also died in the attack.

The remaining U.S. troops originated from a redeployment by former President Barack Obama to fight the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and Daesh.

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"We are in Iraq at their invitation to help Iraq's capacity security forces and Peshmerga in the campaign against ISIS," a senior administration official said Friday. "We've -- are completing the fourth strategic dialogue. There were two last year in 2020 and two -- there was one in April.

"This will be the final one. And we'll talk about -- still under discussion, but we're talking about shifting to a new phase in the campaign in which we very much complete the combat mission against [the Islamic State] and shift to an advisory and training mission by the end of the year."

The administration official said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein recently and discussed "a whole host of issues on the bilateral agenda."

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One possible plan could replace troops with logistical and advisory support, air support and surveillance capability to aid the Iraqi government.

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Kahdhimi is also facing political pressure with an upcoming election and some voices who want to see a complete departure of U.S. troops.

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