Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani disclosed on September 11th that the newly established Iraqi-US Joint Committee is scheduled to convene in the near future. Its purpose is to define the nature of Iraq's relationship with the international coalition.
The formation of this committee gained approval from the Iraqi parliament the previous month, following a visit to the United States by Defense Minister Thabet al-Abbasi.
Furthermore, PM al-Sudani reiterated on Monday that Baghdad no longer requires the presence of foreign combat troops for security maintenance.
"The Iraqi delegation explicitly conveyed [in Washington] that Iraq no longer requires combat troops, consistent with our stance in all circumstances; we do not require combat troops in Iraq," he stated.
However, al-Sudani emphasized that Iraq remains open to establishing bilateral relations with the United States or any other nation within the International Coalition, particularly in the realm of security cooperation.
He also underscored that increased US troop movements within Iraq are part of a process to replace the forces stationed in Syria, emphasizing that no foreign forces operate in Iraq without the knowledge of the Iraqi government.
This statement by al-Sudani comes shortly after a senior official in the Iraqi military disclosed that the US Army has been storing offensive military equipment at Iraq's Ain al-Asad base, in apparent violation of a 2021 agreement between Washington and Baghdad. This agreement had officially marked the end of the US Army's combat role in Iraq, transitioning it to an advisory role.
The official stated that Baghdad intends to press the United States on this matter, with particular attention to US military activities in neighboring Syria.
US military forces initially entered Iraq in 2003 under false pretenses to topple Saddam Hussein's government. They withdrew in 2011 after failing to secure a new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
However, US troops returned to Ain al-Asad base in the guise of training Iraqi forces to combat ISIS six months after the extremist group's occupation of Mosul in June 2014.
On December 18, 2021, the Iraqi government declared that no combat forces from the international coalition or NATO remained at Ain al-Asad base. Nevertheless, approximately 2,500 US troops remain in Iraq, many stationed at Ain al-Asad base, fulfilling a training and advisory role.
This continued presence results from an agreement reached between Washington and Baghdad in July 2021, which had aimed to ensure a complete withdrawal of US troops, similar to their exit from Afghanistan.
Calls for the US to end its military presence in Iraq grew louder in January 2020 after the Iraqi parliament passed a law to revoke permission for US operations on Iraqi soil, in response to the assassination of Iranian anti-terror commander Qassem Soleimani and the deputy leader of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, outside Baghdad airport.