World, Middle East

US forces would leave Iraq if Baghdad asked: Diplomat

5,000 US troops have remained in Iraq since anti-Daesh coalition was drawn up in 2014

19.02.2019
US forces would leave Iraq if Baghdad asked: Diplomat

By Ibrahim Saleh

BAGHDAD

U.S. forces would leave Iraq if Baghdad requested it, Joey Hood, chargé d'affaires at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, said Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters, Hood said: “The current presence of U.S. forces has come at the request of Iraq’s federal government.”

“The Iraqi armed forces aren’t ready to safeguard [Iraq’s] security without the support of foreign troops,” the diplomat added, going on to describe recent media reports of fresh U.S. troop mobilizations as “disinformation”.

“Most of this footage dates back to 2006,” Hood said in reference to videos shared online that purportedly shows fresh U.S. troop deployments in Iraq.

He went on to assert that the U.S. would “not use Iraqi territory or airspace” to attack other states of the region.

“President [Donald] Trump has repeatedly said that he doesn’t want U.S. troops to wage ‘needless wars’,” Hood said.

“He certainly doesn’t want a war with Iran,” he added, stressing that the Trump administration preferred to use “diplomatic means like economic sanctions” to accomplish its goals.

Nor, according to Hood, does the U.S. administration want “to change or amend strategic agreements between Washington and Baghdad” -- a reference to the 2008 U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement, which regulates relations between the two countries, especially in military and economic affairs.

Hood also denied the presence of any U.S. bases in Iraq. “Only trainers and advisers,” he said.

An estimated 5,000 U.S. troops have remained in Iraq since 2014, when Washington cobbled a military coalition together with the ostensible aim of fighting the Daesh terrorist group.

In addition to training Iraqi forces, the U.S.-led coalition continues to provide the Iraqi army with air support, allowing it to hunt down and destroy the terrorist group’s lingering presence.

In late 2017, Baghdad declared victory over Daesh after a three-year war that ended with the fall of Mosul, the group’s last remaining stronghold in Iraq.

The Iraqi army, however, continues to wage operations against Daesh "sleeper cells" that allegedly remain active in certain parts of the country.

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