President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi are expected to announce on Monday that they’ve agreed to end the U.S. military’s combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year, according to a senior Biden administration official, Associate Press
The plan to shift the American military mission, whose stated purpose is to help Iraq defeat the Islamic State group, to a strictly advisory and training role by year’s end - with no U.S. troops in a combat role - will be spelled out in a broader communique to be issued by the two leaders following their White House meeting on Monday afternoon, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the yet to be announced plan.
The announcement to end the U.S. 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 Sept. 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.
The senior administration official said Iraqi security forces are “battle tested” and have proved themselves “capable” of protecting their country. Still, the Biden administration recognizes that IS remains a considerable threat, the official said.
The vulnerability of U.S. troops was demonstrated most dramatically in January 2020 when Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on al-Asad air base in western Iraq. No Americans were killed, but dozens suffered traumatic brain injury from the blasts. That attack came shortly after a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian military commander Qassim Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad International Airport.