The United States is ending its combat mission in Iraq, President Joe Biden announced in a joint statement with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on July 26. The U.S. presence on the ground will evolve into a training and advisory role by the end of the year, allowing the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to execute counter-terrorism missions independently.
There are currently 2,500 American troops remaining in the U.S., and Biden’s recent announcement indicates that there will not be a significant reduction in these numbers within the year. In fact, the U.S. mission in Iraq will not be changing following the Biden-Kadhimi meeting, despite the marketing surrounding the U.S.-Iraq talks suggesting that a major shift in the U.S.’s Iraq policy is imminent.
Since the outset of his premiership, al-Kadhimi has struggled to counter rogue Iran-backed militias that function outside of Iraqi law. These Tehran-directed militant groups openly defy the Iraqi government and remain the largest roadblock hindering a strengthened U.S.-Iraq partnership.
The prime minister had prioritized achieving Iraqi sovereignty and limiting foreign intervention in Iraqi polity and society. Iran-supported militants obstruct these goals by using Iraq as a battleground to carry out attacks targeting U.S. assets on the ground, killing off anti-Iranian activists and demonstrators, and conducting wide-scale misinformation campaigns.