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DECEMBER 2020

Pentagon Says It Won’t Withdraw Troops from Iraq

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Pentagon Says It Won't Withdraw Troops from Iraq

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The US has no plans to withdraw any troops from Iraq, and will assess its military presence around the globe, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has ordered “a zero-based review” of the disposition of U.S. forces worldwide, Hoffman said.

“We’ve been going through this for many months now,” Hoffman said. “He’s sitting down with each of the combatant commands to walk through what is the right force posture; what are our right goals; what are the right countries we need to be engaging; what are the right challenges; and where can our allies and partners participate more?”

The US remains in discussion with Iraq about the status of the roughly 5,000 American forces there, following reports that the country’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said the next government will decide whether to enforce the non-binding resolution on expelling foreign troops from the country that the Iraqi parliament approved.

“We’re still in conversations with our Iraqi host,” Hoffman said. “We continue to want to be a friend and partner to the sovereign and prosperous Iraq. At this time, there are no plans by the U.S. military to withdraw from Iraq.”

Despite the vote in Iraq’s parliament, the Pentagon believed the consensus in Iraq is that the US presence there is a force for good, Hoffman said.

“Having the United States forces in Iraq allows NATO to be present, as well, to help with that counter-ISIS mission as well as the training mission, to support Iraqi Security Forces.”

In late December 2019, the New York Times cited US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper who said that his aim was to reduce US missions countering terrorist groups in remote locations, in order to refocus on confronting “Great Powers” such as Russia and China.

On the Iraqi side, Mahmoud al-Rubaye, a member of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq’s political wing, a group which is part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) said that the US should withdraw from Iraq.

“The resistance factions are completely prepared to inflict a great defeat on American forces if they go against the will of the Iraqi government and people,” Mahmoud al-Rubaye said.

He added, “I think the United States is afraid of direct confrontation with resistance groups, because it has a bitter experience of face-off with them.”

The warnings by the PMU came two days after influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demanded that Iraqis stage a “million-man march” against the continued US military presence in the country.

The march is needed “to condemn the American presence and its violations,” Sadr, who leads the largest parliamentary bloc, Sairoon, said.

“The skies, land, and sovereignty of Iraq are being violated every day by occupying forces,” he added. He said that the demonstrations needed to be peaceful.

The Iraqi government maintains that the US troops need to withdraw, with Iraqi caretaker prime minister Abdul-Mahdi releasing a statement calling for the organization of a safe and orderly withdrawal.

Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament’s decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“The prime minister said American forces had entered Iraq and drones are flying in its airspace without permission from Iraqi authorities and this was a violation of the bilateral agreements,” the statement added.

Despite that, US troops continued their joint anti-terror operations in cooperation with the Iraqi military as of January 16th.

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