President Joe Biden announced Monday the United States’ nearly 20-year combat mission in Iraq will end by the end of 2021. The video above is from a Monday meeting at the White House between President Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
“Our shared fight against ISIS is critical for the stability of the region, and our counterterrorism cooperation will continue even as we shift to this new phase we’re going to be talking about,” Biden said.
The plan to shift the American military mission to a strictly advisory and training one will be spelled out in a broader communique to be issued by U.S. and Iraq following the visit according to a senior official. “I’m looking forward to consulting with the prime minister today,” Biden said. “We have a lot to talk about. He’s been a good friend, and I’m anxious to get going.””
Late last year, Former President Donald Trump reduced the number of U.S. troops in Iraq from 3,000 and 2,500. Biden will not say how many U.S. troops would remain in Iraq when the combat mission is officially over. That 2,500 number may not go down much due to the expected advisory and training mission.
Dan Caldwell, a senior adviser to Concerned Veterans for America, said the U.S. troops that stay in Iraq will remain at risk. “Regardless of whether their deployment is called a combat mission, U.S. troops will remain under regular attack as long as they remain in Iraq,” Caldwell said in a statement. “An American military presence in Iraq is not necessary for our safety and only risks the loss of more American life.”
The decision to switch to an advise-and-train mission was originally announced in April. However, a timeline was not discussed at the time.
Monday’s announcement came less than three months before Iraq’s parliamentary elections slated for Oct. 10. “We support strengthening Iraq’s democracy and we’re anxious to make sure the election goes forward in October, and we’re also committed to our security cooperation,” Biden said.
Joe Biden, U.S. President: “I think things are going well. Our role in Iraq will be as a, dealing with, not, it’s just to be available to continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS as it arrives. But we are not going to be by the end of the year in a combat mission. Well, I’m honored to welcome the prime minister. We’ve known each other for some time. And welcome to the White House. Welcome to the Oval, Mr. Prime Minister. Iraq has been a vital partner of the United States for some time now in the Middle East. And we’ve been engaged deeply in Iraq for my entire career back in the Senate, as vice president and as president. And I’ve worked with Iraq to, and as a matter of fact, my son Beau was in Iraq for a year with the Army National Guard. And the sacrifices that so many, so many have made to build the U.S. Iraq partnership has been real and it’s consequential. And my administration is committed to strengthening that partnership, Mr. Prime Minister. And, you know, we support strengthening Iraq’s democracy and we’re anxious to make sure the election goes forward in October and we’re also committed to our security cooperation. Our our shared fight against ISIS is critical for the stability of the region, and our counterterrorism cooperation will continue even as we shift to this new phase we’re going to be talking about. I’m looking forward to consulting with the prime minister today. We have a lot to talk about. He’s been a good friend and I’m anxious to get going. The floor is yours, sir.”
Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraqi Prime Minister: “Thank you, Mr. President. This is a great honor to be here today with our American friends. We have a strategic partnership. I’m happy to be here in Washington to discuss the future of our nation and how to improve this relation between our two countries. America, they help Iraq. Together, we fight and defeat ISIS. And I’d like to thank the American people on behalf of all Iraqi people. Mr. President, I thank you for all the blood and treasure that America has given for a free and democratic Iraq. Today, our relation is stronger than ever. Our partnership exists for our economy, the environment, health, education, culture and more. I’m looking forward to work with you, Mr. President, to bring our two countries more closer for the benefit of Iraq and United States. God bless our two countries.”