Biden, Kadhimi sign deal to end US ‘combat operations’ in Iraq

US President Joe Biden and Iraqi PM Mustafa al Kadhimi seal agreement formally ending US combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021, more than 18 years after US troops were sent to the Arab country.

US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi (L) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on July 26, 2021.
US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi (L) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on July 26, 2021. (AFP)

US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi have sealed an agreement formally ending the US combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021, more than 18 years after US troops were sent to the country.

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Biden and Kadhimi met in the Oval Office on Monday for their first face-to-face talks as part of a strategic dialogue between the United States and Iraq.

Kadhimi is seen as friendly to the United States and has tried to check the power of Iran-aligned militias.

A US-led coalition invaded Iraq in March 2003 based on charges that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s government possessed weapons of mass destruction. Saddam was ousted from power, but such weapons were never found.

In recent years the US mission was dominated by helping defeat Daesh militants in Iraq and Syria.

More US attention on China

Biden said at the opening of the talks that the US role will be “to continue to train, to assist, to help, to deal with ISIS (Daesh) as it arises” in Iraq.

“But we’re not going to be, at the end of the year, in a combat mission,” he said.

The announcement to end the US combat mission in Iraq, while it may not result in a substantial troop reduction, comes on the heels of Biden’s decision to fully withdraw from Afghanistan nearly 20 years after President George W Bush launched that war in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Less than two years later, Bush started the war in Iraq.

Biden has vowed to continue counterterrorism efforts in the Middle East but shift more attention to China as a long-term security challenge.

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