Starting weeks ago the Iraqi government began putting pressure on the Biden administration to enter a new round of talks over withdrawing all remaining US troops from the country – a process previously stalled amid tit-for-tat strikes between American forces and Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary groups.
The new high level talks have started this week, which is the third round stretching back into the Trump administration, but the first under the Biden presidency. As part of demands for a total US forces exit, Baghdad is seeking to assure the White House that Iran-backed militias in the country will also stand down. However, it’s quite another question whether Baghdad will be able to deliver, and Washington has long used this as a prime excuse for staying with no firm exit date.
“Iraq’s prime minister asked Iran’s leaders to rein in Iran-backed militias in Iraq and in a strongly worded message to Tehran, suggested he would confront the factions, two Iraqi officials said Wednesday,” the Associated Press reports.
Already a major agreement has been reportedly reached during the virtual talks involving Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale representing the US side in the remote meeting with their Iraqi counterparts.
The AFP is reporting Wednesday afternoon that the US has agreed to move “remaining combat troops” out of Iraq.
Just in: Biden admin indicates that 2,500 US troops will eventually leave Iraq in joint stmt after strategic dialogue with Baghdad. Both sides confirmed US-led mission now focused on training & advising, but timing of US redeployment will be established in technical talks. pic.twitter.com/jXE6YaQydT
— Jack Detsch (@JackDetsch) April 7, 2021
However, the timing of this full pullout will continue to be negotiated as part of the ongoing talks.
The joint statement reads in part: “…The parties confirmed that the mission of US and Coalition forces has now transitioned to one focused on training and advisory tasks, thereby allowing for the redeployment of any remaining combat forces from Iraq, with the timing to be established in upcoming technical talk.”
Will the some few thousand troops remaining in Iraq simply be “redeployed” to neighboring Syria where the US occupation of the country’s northeast controversially endures with no end in sight?
If so this will do nothing to de-escalate the continuing proxy war with Iran in the region, which would likely only see American forces eventually redeploy once again inside Iraq as Iran tensions continue to spiral. Of course, much of this also depends on the fate of nuclear talks now being held in Vienna over restoration of the JCPOA, as well as the “wild card” that is Israel – and its attempts to sabotage any path back to US participation in the deal.