The US wants to further reduce its troop strength in Iraq in the coming months. This was stated by the governments in Washington and Baghdad in a joint communication as part of a strategic dialogue that started on Thursday. The reduction in troops was justified with "significant progress" in the fight against the jihadist militia "Islamic State" (IS). The United States had affirmed that it was not seeking a permanent military presence or permanent bases in Iraq, it said.
Washington is leading an international coalition against terrorist militia in the region, with around 5,200 U.S. soldiers deployed. Although IS has lost its territory in Syria and Iraq, it is still active. In the past few weeks, reports of attacks by the jihadists had piled up and worries about their resurgence had increased.
The use of US soldiers in Iraq is controversial. Criticism by Iraqi politicians and closely related Iranian militias of the presence of US troops has increased in recent months after the U.S. killed Iranian General Kassem Soleimani and an Iraqi militia leader near Baghdad earlier this year. The Iraqi parliament then demanded that all U.S. soldiers be withdrawn from the country.
Other forces want the US troops to stay in the country. This includes Sunni parties, but also the Kurds. The United States wants to keep its troops in Iraq as long as the government in Baghdad is in wool and the fight against IS is over, US Special Envoy for the fight against IS, James Jeffrey, said before the multi-month talks between the US and Iraq. The Strategic Dialogue should deal comprehensively with the relations between the two countries and also deal with questions of security, economy and energy. No information was given in the statement on the scope of the envisaged troop reduction or the precise time frame.