US soldiers in the town of Bartella, Iraq, on December 2016. © Ammar Awad / Reuters
“At this time, there are no plans by the US military to withdraw from Iraq,” Assistant to the Secretary of Defense Jonathan Rath Hoffman told reporters at a press briefing.
And I think it’s been obvious… that the consensus in Iraq seems to be that the United States forces there are a force for good.
The official said that the US presence in the country is “beneficial” to Iraq and “will continue to lead to increased security and prosperity for the Iraqi people.”
Despite Hoffman’s confidence, his words seem to be at odds with the Iraqi Parliament, which on January 5 passed a non-binding resolution asking caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi to cancel the request for military assistance from the US-led coalition.
The vote took place two days after a US drone strike killed Iranian senior military leader Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy chief of the Iran-backed Iraqi militias, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), when their convoy was leaving Baghdad’s airport. Soleimani was scheduled to meet PM Mahdi that day.
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US forces have remained in Iraq since 2003, when a Washington-led coalition invaded the country to topple its longtime leader Saddam Hussein. US President Donald Trump warned that American troops will not be withdrawn unless Iraq compensates for money spent on a US air base in the country, and promised sanctions if Iraq refuses to do so.