Maj. Gen. Kenneth P. Ekman, Deputy Commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, signs documents with Brigadier General Salah Abdullah during a handover ceremony of Taji military base from US-led coalition troops to Iraqi security forces, in the base north of Baghdad, Iraq August 23, 2020.

Talks To End US Military Presence In Iraq May Last Until US Election

Wednesday, 03/13/2024

Talks between Washington and Baghdad on ending the US military presence in Iraq may not be concluded until after the US presidential election in November, Reuters reported.

The two countries in January initiated talks to reassess the US presence in Iraq, formed in 2014 to help fight Islamic State (IS) after the extremist Sunni Muslim militant group overran large parts of the country.

The process to wind up the military coalition came after US forces and Iran-backed Shi'ite Muslim militias engaged in tit-for-tat attacks amid regional conflict linked to the war in Gaza.

Those clashes have now ceased for over a month after retaliatory US air strikes in February.

Backed by Shi'ite parties and armed groups, the government in Baghdad, a rare ally of both Iran and the US, is trying to prevent the country again becoming a battlefield for foreign powers.

The technical talks via a joint military commission are seen by politicians as a way to buy time in the face of differing views over how US-Iraqi military relations should evolve.

Hardline Iraqi Shi'ite armed groups, seen as Iran’s proxies, have called for an immediate exit of US forces while more moderate Shi'ite factions and Sunni and Kurdish parties are concerned their departure could lead to a power vacuum.

Washington does not view the talks as necessarily entailing a withdrawal of US military advisers from the country.

"I don't think the Americans want a full withdrawal. That is clear," former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a moderate Shiite politician, told journalists last week.

"Also, I do not thing there is an Iraqi desire among the political forces to dispense entirely with the Americans - even though there is a feeling today that their presence at this time causes more problems than solutions."

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