US to withdraw troops from Iraq – as it promised

The U.S. now says troops will leave Iraq “consistent with Iraqi security forces’ capabilities” but will retain a military presence for training and advising purposes. That means U.S. forces will likely not withdraw as it promised. The Iraqi government was still insisting U.S. troops stay, but the latest position holds more water.

“After successful cooperation throughout the process, the Iraqi Government has now definitively concluded that the timing and scope of the mission of the U.S. Forces-Iraq are appropriate given Iraq’s current security posture,” said John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, in a statement.

“The government of Iraq has officially accepted the U.S. proposal to reduce military presence in Iraq in an effort to help meet the security needs of the country as they develop their country’s security forces,” said Nicholson, adding that the proposal’s main aim was to “assist the Iraqi government in conducting these capabilities within a context of Iraqi sovereignty, self-determination, and responsibility.”

In 2007 the U.S. promised a troop withdrawal from Iraq, and in 2014, according to the Obama administration, the deal was to keep troops in the country until 2016. But lawmakers from both parties accused Obama of abandoning Iraq and then taking too long to withdraw troops, while others pointed to ISIS’s rise as proof of their continued interest in Iraq and the region.

The most recent surge of violence in Iraq, however, led to renewed calls for the troops to stay. “The mission will be over unless the situation changes,” said Saad al-Hadithi, spokesman for Iraq’s parliamentary committee on national security, according to NPR.

Although American forces now say they will leave Iraq in a “consistent manner”—with no U.S. troops in bases – that leaves the government in Baghdad unlikely to accept the idea. Here’s the Guardian’s James Lynch:

A statement from the White House released shortly after 8am GMT announcing the troops would leave in a “consistent manner”, which echoed the US statement. … Then, at 10am GMT, the Washington Post reported that US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman told the news agency the US withdrawal would not be in agreement with the Iraqi government and that this had been agreed with the Iraqi people. “There is no withdrawal, but only the departure of American troops,” the Post quoted Silliman as saying. … There were fears in Baghdad that Trump would fulfill his election pledge, and that the U.S. troop withdrawal would pave the way for further instability in the country. “The biggest problem with Trump is his unpredictability,” Said Salih Zebari, a former deputy prime minister, told reporters. “His tweet on Thursday night will be the worst thing and lead to catastrophe and chaos in Iraq.”

As you might imagine, there’s strong support for the troops within the White House. Trump seemed to refer to the changes as a diplomatic victory when he tweeted:

Our wonderful future VETERANS of the US Military, thank you! pic.twitter.com/8sDeMolMzr — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2018

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