Iraq forms committee to co-ordinate with US on troop withdrawal

Last month, US said it would reduce its troop numbers in Iraq from about 5,200 to 3,000

(FILES) In this file photo a US soldier stands at the Taji base complex which hosts Iraqi and US troops and is located thirty kilometres north of the capital Baghdad on December 29, 2014. Washington warned on October 1, 2020 that it would not tolerate attacks on US interests in Iraq by Iran-backed militias, as Baghdad worries about a possible US withdrawal. "We can't tolerate the threats to our people, our men and women serving abroad," David Schenker, assistant secretary of state, for near Eastern affairs, told reporters.
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Iraq will establish a technical committee to co-ordinate US troop withdrawal from the country, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said on Thursday.

The announcement came after a meeting between the Iraqi Foreign Affairs Ministry, National Security Adviser and other concerned parties.

The ministry did not provide details on the make-up of the committee, or timelines for the departure of US troops, but it said it would work with the US administration "to schedule the redeployment of the US troops outside Iraq".

Last month, the US said it would reduce its troop numbers in Iraq from about 5,200 to 3,000.

Those left would continue to advise and assist Iraqi security forces in dealing with the remnants of ISIS.

US troops have been in Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.

President Barack Obama oversaw a large withdrawal in 2011, but by 2014, thousands returned to Iraq on invitation from the Iraqi government to battle ISIS, which had seized nearly a third of its territory.

Despite the defeat of ISIS by the end of 2017, about 5,000 troops remained, along with others from the international coalition that the US leads to prevent the militants' resurgence.

Since then, Iran-linked Shiite politicians and militias have called for the withdrawal of US troops.

Tension has heightened since late last year when the US accused Iran-backed Shiite militias of attacking Iraqi military bases hosting American troops.

The attacks prompted the US to launch strikes against militias inside Iraq and Syria.

Early this year, a US drone strike killed Iran’s top military commander, Qassem Suleimani, after he landed at Baghdad airport with influential Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis.

Angry over the US military’s unilateral move, former prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi asked the US troops to leave after a vote by Parliament.

Only Shiite members supported the decision, while Sunnis and Kurds opposed it, saying the country still needed the US military for training Iraqi troops and to help chase down ISIS remnants.

Since then, militias have been staging rocket and bomb attacks against US troops, the US embassy and convoys supplying international coalition bases.

This week, a group of militias calling itself the Iraqi Resistance Co-ordination Commission said it would suspend attacks on the US in return for a clear timeline for the withdrawal of its troops from the country.