The U.S. combat mission in Iraq will end by the end of the year, though U.S. forces will continue to help Iraqi forces in the fight against the Islamic State group, President Joe Biden announced July 26.
Biden, appearing alongside Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi at the White House, said the American combat mission in Iraq will end, but U.S. forces will “continue to train, advise, and assist, and help deal with ISIS as it arrives.”
“We’re also committed to our security cooperation. Our shared fight against ISIS is critical for the stability of the region, and our counterterrorism operation will continue, even as we shift to this new phase,” Biden said.
The decision stems from the fourth “Strategic Dialogue” with high-level U.S. and Iraqi officials, which is ongoing in Washington, D.C.
A U.S. administration official said July 23 that Iraq had requested the end of the U.S. combat mission, “and we very much agree.”
The U.S. military has about 2,500 troops in Iraq, along with another 900 in Syria, as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. The Biden Administration did not announce how many troops would leave or when. The specific timeline is a main focus of the talks in Washington. Before the White House meeting, al-Kadhimi told the Associated Press that his country no longer needs American combat forces on the ground, though he wants U.S. training and intelligence gathering to remain.
“The war against ISIS and the readiness of our forces requires a special timetable, and this depends on the negotiations that we will conduct in Washington,” he said.
Biden said in the coming months there will be multiple changes of command and other “adjustments” to the U.S. military’s force structure within the country.
U.S. forces in Iraq have repeatedly come under attack by Iranian-backed militias, which are using small drones to target U.S. troops at major operating bases such as al-Asad Air Base and the international airport in Erbil. In late June, USAF F-15E and F-16 aircraft conducted airstrikes targeting these militias located on the Iraq-Syria border in a mission Iraqi officials said was a violation of their country’s sovereignty.
The announcement to end the combat mission in Iraq comes as U.S. forces have nearly finished the full withdrawal from Afghanistan, with about 95 percent of that retrograde complete as of July 20, according to U.S. Central Command.