U.S. to end Iraq combat mission
July 27, 2021 - President Joe Biden has confirmed that the U.S. combat mission in Iraq will be over by the end of this year, with the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops shifting to advisory, air support and surveillance roles to aid the Iraqi government in its fight against the Islamic State group (IS).
By the end of the year, the U.S. is “not going to be in a combat mission” in Iraq, President Biden said while meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi Monday (July 26).
“Our shared fight against IS is critical for the stability of our region and our counterterrorism cooperation will continue, even as we shift to this new phase we’re going to be talking about,” Biden said.
Several U.S. officials have said the 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq are already mainly in that kind of advise-and-assist role.
In January 2020, during the Trump administration, a series of tit-for-tat attacks between Iraqi militias and U.S. forces led to an assault on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad by supporters of the Iran-backed militia Kata’ib Hizbollah.
Days later, President Donald Trump ordered the airstrike that killed Iran’s most powerful general Qassem Soleimani, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force commander. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of Kata’ib Hizbollah, also died in the attack outside Baghdad International Airport.
The drone strike further inflamed anti-American sentiment among Shiite militias, and Iraq’s parliament -- with a majority of Shiite lawmakers -- voted to expel U.S. troops.
A spokesperson for the Popular Mobilization Forces, which includes Kata’ib Hizbollah, described Biden’s statement as a “cheap trick.” Nasser al Shammari warned that they “will not differentiate between advisers of the occupation or soldiers of the occupation,” adding they are all targets until the last foreign soldier leaves Iraq.