Iraq denies extending date for US troop withdrawal

Baghdad, Washington agreed in July on US troop withdrawal by end of this year
BAGHDAD: The Iraqi army has denied reports about extending the date for the withdrawal of US combat forces from the country.

“The date for the departure of (US) combat forces on Dec. 31 is fixed and there is no change,” Major General Tahsin al-Khafaji, spokesman of the Joint Operations Command, told the official Iraqi News Agency.

Baghdad and Washington agreed in July to withdraw US forces from Iraq by the end of 2021. However, an unknown number of US forces would remain to advise and train Iraqi forces.

“The relationship between the two sides after the departure of the combat forces will be an advisory relationship, in the fields of training, armament, intelligence, and security against the Daesh/ISIS terror group,” al-Khafaji said.

The US has, at the invitation of the Iraqi government, led an international coalition since 2014 to fight the Daesh/ISIS terror group, which captured almost one-third of Iraq’s territory in 2014.

The terrorist organization, however, was defeated by the Iraqi army, with the help of the US-led coalition, in 2017.

The Iraqi denial came after the Kataeb Sayyid al-Shuhada faction, which is allied to Tehran, said it would welcome volunteers to join its ranks to fight the American forces after the end of this year.

Over the past months, military bases housing US forces in Iraq have been targeted with missile attacks and Washington has often accused armed factions loyal to Iran of being responsible.

Currently, there are around 3,000 troops, including 2,500 US forces, fighting in the anti-Daesh/ISIS coalition.

Iraqi political forces have called for the withdrawal of the US troops from the country under a parliamentary decision issued on Jan. 5, 2020.–Online

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