US President Donald Trump has reiterated his intention to withdraw US troops from Iraq but gave no detailed timeline.
Speaking to reporters in the White House with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Trump on Thursday said that “we have been taking our troops out of Iraq fairly rapidly, and we look forward to the day when we don’t have to be there,” Xinhua reported.
“At some point, we obviously will be gone. We’ve brought it down to a very, very low level,” Trump added when asked if the US would pull troops out of Iraq in three years.
Pressed by reporters on the timeframe of the full withdrawal from Iraq, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vaguely replied that a complete pullout would take place “as soon as we complete the mission.”
The chief diplomat noted that Washington is working with Baghdad “to get our forces down to the lowest level as quickly as we possibly can.”
Commander of US Central Command Kenneth McKenzie said at a think tank event earlier this month that he expected US military to maintain a long-term presence in Iraq to help fight Islamic extremists and to check Iranian influence in the country.
The two countries held a strategic dialogue this June, the joint statement of which said that the US would reduce forces from Iraq over the coming months.
Currently, there are over 5,000 US troops deployed in Iraq to support Iraqi forces in battles against remnants of the Islamic State, mainly for training and advisory purposes.
Citing US officials, The New York Times reported last week that US and Iraqi officials had resumed discussions this month that could lead to a reduction to around 3,500 US troops.
US killing of Qassem Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, at Baghdad airport in early January strained its relations with Iraq. The Iraqi parliament passed a resolution on January 5 requiring the government to end the presence of foreign forces in Iraq.
The military bases housing US troops across Iraq and other US facilities have been frequently targeted by mortar and rocket attacks in recent months.