U.S. Working with Iraq, Security Council for ‘Orderly and Responsible Wind-down’ of UNAMI

“The US has strongly supported” UNAMI’s work in Iraq and in resolving issues with Kuwait, and we are working “to ensure an orderly and responsible wind-down.”
US Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel (Photo: State Department/Freddie Everett/Public Domain)
US Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel (Photo: State Department/Freddie Everett/Public Domain)

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) –State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel, addressing journalists on Monday, confirmed that the Biden administration was working with the Iraqi government to bring an orderly conclusion to the presence in Iraq of UNAMI (United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq.)

UNAMI was constituted in August 2003, at the request of the new Iraqi government, following the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF.)

That war began on March 19, 2003. And less than two months later, the Bush administration believed that it won!. UNAMI was, thus, intended to be a temporary organization—but more than 20 years later, it is still in existence.

Premature U.S. Declaration of Victory

The sense of having achieved a quick victory in Iraq was not just the view of some out-of-touch figures in Washington. It was actually the position of the U.S. military! That is what President George W. Bush was told.

Thus, on May 1, 2003, Bush flew on a military plane that landed on the deck of an aircraft carrier returning from Iraq to its home port in California (Bush appeared to pilot the plane, but as was later explained, he was actually a passenger.)

It was a dramatic picture and served to reinforce the televised address that Bush delivered to the American people from the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. 

It was one of power and confidence. Bush stood below a banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished,” and he declared the end of major military operations in Iraq.

Indeed, at that point, the U.S. military believed that it had won in Afghanistan as well. It actually began to prepare for more wars after Iraq, as retired Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger explains in his book, “Why We Lost.” 

Of course, that was an enormous mistake, one that historians will mull over for many years to come. But it does help explain how an institution like UNAMI, initially set up as a temporary entity, is still in existence 20 years later.

Iraq’s Request to End UNAMI’s Presence

Last Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani sent a letter to  U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, requesting that UNAMI terminate its mission in Iraq by the end of 2025. 

Sudani proposed a “responsible shutdown process” and promised Iraq’s cooperation toward that end.

Sudani’s request to the U.N. followed his first visit to Washington, which took place last month. 

Sudani led a large delegation, and he held extensive talks, including a private meeting with President Joe Biden that lasted for twenty minutes, in addition to the bigger meeting with their aides present.

Read More: Biden, Austin Hold Talks with Sudani: Improving Erbil, Baghdad Ties; Reopening Pipeline; Defending Kurdistan Region

Most likely, during his talks in Washington, Sudani raised the issue of UNAMI’s status and his desire to bring it to an end.

Thus, when asked about it on Monday, Patel’s response was broadly positive, even as he suggested that UNAMI’s work remained unfinished in some respects, particularly with regard to Kuwaiti—although it was over 33 years ago that U.S. forces, under President George H. W. Bush, drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait!

Patel began his response by praising UNAMI, noting “The U.S. has strongly supported the mission’s work in providing not just electoral assistance, but facilitating regional dialogue, ensuring appropriate delivery of humanitarian assistance, and supporting the voluntary returns of displaced Iraqis.”

He also praised UNAMI’s efforts in regard to Kuwait, explaining that it has also “served as a mechanism to advance progress on the return of Kuwaiti property and the national archives and the repatriation or return of all Kuwaiti and third-country nationals.”

“So we are working with the Government of Iraq and fellow Security Council members to ensure an orderly and responsible wind-down that meets not just the needs of the Iraqi people, but also maintains progress towards the final resolution of outstanding issues between Iraq and Kuwait,” he concluded.