In Rudaw 

Hadi al-Amiri says all foreign troops must leave Iraq by year’s end

An Iraqi Shiite political and militia leader late on Tuesday said all foreign troops must leave the country by the end of the year. His comments come a few days after the president of France visited and said French troops will stay in Iraq even if the Americans leave.

By December 31, 2021, “no foreign forces. Not Turkish forces or French forces. This is a decision of the Iraqi people and not President Macron’s decision,” Hadi al-Amiri told reporters at the Rafidain Center for Dialogue (RCD) forum in Baghdad. Amiri is head of the political Fatih alliance and the armed Badr Organization.

In a visit to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region earlier this week, President Emmanuel Macron said France will stay in Iraq even if the United States pulls out its troops.

“No matter the choice the US makes, we will maintain our presence to fight terrorism in Iraq as long as terrorist groups continue to operate and as long as the Iraqi government asks us for support,” he said.

A member of the French delegation that accompanied Macron on his trip told Rudaw that France’s involvement in counter-terrorism goes beyond the coalition and that Paris will continue to play a leading role in fighting terror.

There are currently 3,500 foreign soldiers in Iraq, 2,500 of them Americans, as part of the global coalition against the Islamic State group (ISIS).

The US, after strategic talks with Baghdad, agreed to formally shift its role in Iraq, ending its combat mission and focusing on training, advising, and intelligence-sharing by the end of the year. It is not clear if this will result in a reduction of troop numbers.

A US withdrawal is a demand of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) who are blamed for frequent rocket and drone attacks on US interests in the country. The attacks increased after the US assassinated Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani and PMF deputy commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone strike on Baghdad in January 2020, after which the parliament passed a non-binding resolution to expel foreign troops.

Kurdish officials have raised concerns over the withdrawal of international forces from Iraq. The head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Foreign Relations Department Safeen Dizayee said national forces are not equipped to handle terrorist attacks and a possible ISIS re-emergence.