Iraq, Coalition affirm end of combat role; followed by Iraqi invite for Coalition to advise, assist, enable
WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – Thursday’s session of the Military Technical Talks, a series of meetings held on a monthly basis between the Iraqi military and the US-led Coalition against ISIS, concluded as expected: with a statement announcing the end of the combat role in Iraq for the US-led, anti-ISIS Coalition.
However, the presence of the Coalition, formally known as Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), will continue at the invitation of the Iraqi government with a new mission.
Following the meeting, CENTCOM published a statement, in Arabic and English, which explained that CJTF-OIR “has completed its transition to a non-combat mission before year’s end”—as earlier agreed between Baghdad and Washington.
But the Coalition’s presence in Iraq will continue, including in the Kurdistan Region. Moving forward, it will have a non-combat mission, the statement explained.
“Many brave men and women gave their lives to ensure Daesh [ISIS] never returns,” Maj. Gen. John W. Brennan said, according to the statement. “As we complete our combat role, we will remain here to advise, assist, and enable the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces], at the invitation of the Republic of Iraq,” Brennan said.
That stance was previewed on Wednesday to the Pentagon press corps by Pentagon Press Secretary, John Kirby, who explained that while the combat mission of US forces would end, they would remain in Iraq at the government’s request.
Read More: Pentagon: ‘US forces will remain in Iraq’
Thursday’s meeting was held in Baghdad and was chaired by Iraq’s National Security Adviser, Qasim al-Araji. Araji announced the end of the Coalition’s combat mission, but also said in a tweet, “The relationship with the international coalition will continue in training, advising and enabling.”
A statement from the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) confirmed Araji’s position, explaining that the two parties had reaffirmed their “commitment to the ongoing partnership between Iraqi Security Forces and the Coalition and clearly outlined how the Coalition will continue to support the Iraqi Security Forces through its advisory, assisting and enabling role.”
The statement from the Iraqi JOC also cited “the successful transfer of equipment to the Iraqi side over the past months,” including over “1,800 armored vehicles, cranes, water tanks, and other equipment, which has contributed to increasing the mobility of the Iraqi Security Forces and enabling them to protect Iraqi citizens from ISIS.”
Diminished Popularity of Pro-Iranian Militias; now following path of Donald Trump
Pressure on the US-led Coalition increased following the January 2020 assassination of Qasim Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who directed and supported the pro-Iranian militias in Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF.)
The Iraqi parliament then approved a resolution calling for an end to the US military presence in Iraq.
However, the resolution was non-binding. Moreover, the parties associated with the pro-Iranian militias fared poorly in Iraq’s October elections, losing nearly 2/3 of their seats.
They have responded by taking a page out of Donald Trump’s playbook, claiming the vote count was fraudulent—although the elections were extensively monitored by a large number of people and parties.
The chant of Trump’s supporters in response to the elections that he lost has been “Stop the Steal.” In Baghdad, the comparable slogan is “No to Fraud.”
Lengthy manual recounts of the Iraqi vote have been conducted, and final results are expected imminently.
Meanwhile, though it is risky to make predictions about events in such a volatile part of the world, particularly optimistic predictions, it appears that the most recent developments will ease pressure on the Coalition to leave Iraq.
It does not seem, at all, to be what a majority of the Iraqi people actually want.