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US ambassador to Iraq reassures continuation of US military training and support for Iraqi forces

The American ambassador to Iraq Sunday reassured the Iraqi defense minister that US troops will continue providing military training and support to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in their fight against remnants of the Islamic State (ISIS) groups.

US ambassador to Baghdad Matthew Tueller met with the Iraqi defense minister Jouma Enad in Baghdad on Sunday during which both sides stressed the need to continue cooperating against the lingering terrorist group in Iraq.

“During the meeting the two sides discussed the ways of enhancing the joint cooperation in the areas of training, logistical support and providing support for the Iraqi security forces in pursuing the remnants of ISIS terrorists,” a statement by Iraqi defense ministry reads on Sunday.

US forces pulled out of Iraq in 2011, but were invited back to the country as part of the US-led Coalition to defeat ISIS in 2014 by the Iraqi government to help fight ISIS, which had seized territory across Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

Although the Iraqi government announced the territorial defeat of ISIS in Iraq in December 2017, remnants of the group ambush security forces, kidnap and execute suspected informants, and extort money from vulnerable rural populations, particularly in territories disputed by Baghdad and Erbil.

US troops currently stationed in Iraq mainly advise and assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS remnants.

The US has been under pressure to exit Iraq since January, when it killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad. Iraqi Shiite parliamentarians passed a non-binding law, demanding the removal of foreign troops and tensions between US and pro-Iranian groups have increased. The US embassy in Baghdad and bases housing American soldiers have repeatedly come under rocket attack.

This year, the Coalition has scaled back its footprint in Iraq, handing over bases and equipment to Iraqi forces. Earlier this month, the United States announced it would reduce the number of American troops in Iraq from 5,200 to 3000, citing progress the national forces have made in improving their capabilities.

The recent announcement of the US troop’s drawdown in Iraq by the Pentagon on September 9 comes after the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s visit to Washington to meet US president, Donald Trump and other American officials to discuss the future of US troops in Iraq.

“We [the US and Iraq] continue to work in close coordination to ensure that the Islamic State (ISIS) is rendered incapable of posing a threat to Iraq and every other nation,” read a joint statement from Trump and Kadhimi published on August 21. Source