US pledges troops reduction, no permanent presence in Iraq  

US pledges troops reduction, no permanent presence in Iraq  

WASHINGTON: The US has pledged that it would continue reducing its forces in Iraq and confirmed that it does not seek permanent military presence in the country, said a joint statement on Friday.

The joint US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue statement on the website of the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Iraqi delegation was led by the Ministry’s Senior Deputy Minister Abdul-Karim Hashim, while the American delegation was led by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, reports Xinhua news agency.

The strategic dialogue via video teleconference, which was held in accordance with the Strategic Framework Agreement signed in 2008 between the two sides, also covered security and counterterrorism, economics and energy, political issues, and cultural relations, according to the statement.

It said that the two sides recognized the significant progress in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) and agreed that over the coming months “the US would continue reducing forces from Iraq and discuss with the government of Iraq the status of remaining forces”.

“The US reiterated that it does not seek nor request permanent bases or a permanent military presence in Iraq,” the statement said, adding that the Iraqi government in turn committed to protect the international coalition forces and their bases in the country, and that the foreign forces presence will be decided upon by the two countries.

On the economic and energy issues, the two sides agreed that Iraq is facing enormous economic challenges by the two crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and the decline of oil prices, while the country needs to conduct comprehensive reforms, the statement said.

In this respect, the US discussed providing economic advisors to work directly with the Iraqi government to help advance international support for Iraq’s reform efforts, as well as the potential for investment projects involving world-class American firms in the energy and other sectors, according to the statement.

On politics, the US vowed to assist the Iraqi government in “carrying out humanitarian efforts, restoring stability, rebuilding the country, and organizing free, fair and credible elections”, it said.

The two governments will also hold in-depth discussions over the same issues at another meeting for a higher coordination committee for the strategic dialogue likely slated for July in Washington, D.C.

The relations between Baghdad and Washington have witnessed a tension since January 3 after an American drone struck a convoy at Baghdad airport, which killed Qasem Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq’s paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces.

The US airstrike prompted the Iraqi Parliament on January 5 to pass a resolution requiring the government to end the presence of foreign forces in Iraq.

Over 5,000 U.S. troops have been deployed in Iraq to support the domestic forces in the battles against the IS militants.

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