Iraq’s prime minister has said there will be no lingering US combat troop presence in his country after the battle to remove the Islamic State (Daesh) is finished, contradicting earlier reports.
Officials from both countries on Thursday reportedly said talks were ongoing regarding maintaining US combat troops in Iraq after Daesh is ousted, but Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement on Twitter on Friday that no US troops would stay on.
Abadi’s statement, described as a “clarification” stressed that there actually are no foreign combat troops on Iraqi soil. There are “civilians and advisers” from several countries who may remain to advise Iraqi forces and help the country stabilize after the battle to evict Daesh from its strongholds there is over, it said. But Iraq’s government “has not expressed any jurisdiction regarding the [American] military role for the stage beyond the decisive victory over terrorism,” the statement said, according to Task and Purpose.
US forces have been acting officially as advisers in the battle to oust Daesh from Mosul, which began in October, though they have come closer and closer to the front lines and some are now carrying out combat operations with Iraqi troops. A US soldier who was killed by an improvised explosive device in the city last week was described as part of “advise-and-assist” support to Iraqi troops by Military.com. He was the second US servicemember to die in the battle for Mosul.
Calling the US forces in the country advisers also helps Abadi get around the rule requiring parliamentary approval for foreign combat troops to operate in the country, the Christian Science Monitor points out. The Iraqi official who told AP about the ongoing talks said any forces who remained would continue to be designated as advisers for the same reason.
There are currently nearly 7,000 US troops in Iraq, many of whom are there on temporary tours or fall under other classifications that allow them to remain publicly unacknowledged.
The Iraqi army said at the end of April that it expected to finally clear Daesh from Mosul in May.