US, Iraq to Start Talks on End of Coalition Presence

Pentagon — The United States and Iraq will start talks to end the U.S.-led international military coalition in Iraq and transition to a bilateral partnership, continuing the process that has been stalled by the Israel-Hamas war.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a statement Thursday saying the talks would begin “in the coming days.” Iraq and the U.S. in August 2023 committed to the talks, which Austin said would allow a bilateral relationship between the two countries to build on the success of Iraq’s Defeat-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (D-ISIS) campaign.

“U.S. military personnel are in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government, as part of Operation Inherent Resolve’s mission to advise, assist, and enable the Iraqi security forces in their ongoing fight against ISIS. The United States remains committed to a secure, stable, and sovereign Iraq,” Austin said.

Officials have said the transition was planned as Iraqi forces successfully built up their capability to independently counter remnants of the Islamic State terror group, in order to prevent its resurgence.

The arrangement, with Iraqi forces in the lead since December 2021, has proved successful, according to the officials. U.S. estimates show IS ranks have been cut to fewer than 1,000 fighters in Iraq while the group’s leadership there has likewise been continually degraded by Iraqi forces.

Speaking through a translator during his visit in August, Iraqi Minister of Defense Thabit Muhammad al-Abbasi said it was crucial to “maintain the victories” Iraqi and U.S. forces had already secured.

The U.S. has about 2,500 troops in Iraq tasked with advising and assisting Iraqi security forces as they pursue the remnants of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or Daesh.

Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

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