Iraq‘s national security adviser said today that US-led forces have completed their combat mission in the country, meaning that the remaining troops will now have a training and advisory role.
Qassim al-Aaraji tweeted that the combat mission was completed on schedule before the end of the year and that the combat troops are to be withdrawn.
US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Qadimi sealed an agreement in July to formally end the US combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021.
Western diplomats and security officials have said that calling the change a withdrawal is misleading because the change is small in terms of the number of forces based in Iraq. The US has retained about 2,500 troops in Iraq as of 2020. Western officials say that most of these troops have only had a training and advisory role for some time.
The US-led military mission focuses on countering the remnants of the Islamic State. It began its mission in 2014 as part of an international effort to defeat the extremist group, which had taken over large parts of Iraq and Syria. The announcement is critical for the Iraqi government, which favours this change as it faces strong calls from powerful pro-Iranian factions for a clean withdrawal of US forces stationed in Iraq.
Hashd al-Shaabi, a former coalition of Iraqi militias now integrated into the regular forces, an influential political actor and ally of Tehran, is particularly vocal in its demand for the withdrawal of US troops. On social media, pro-Folklore groups are multiplying the threats and reminding Washington of the December 31 deadline, demanding a full American withdrawal.
In recent months, dozens of rocket fire or attacks with booby-trapped drones have targeted US soldiers and interests in Iraq. Although no organisation has claimed responsibility for them, the United States has systematically attributed responsibility to pro-Iranian Iraqi factions.