Biden says US combat mission in Iraq will be over by year’s end

President Biden speaks with reporters during an Oval Office meeting with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani
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President Biden on Monday said that the U.S. will not be in a combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year during a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

“I think things are going well,” Biden said in the Oval Office. “Our role in Iraq will be — It’s just to be available, to continue to train, to assist, to help, and to deal with ISIS as it arises, but we’re not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission.”

Senior administration officials told reporters earlier on Monday that the military’s combat mission in Iraq will formally conclude by the end of the year and that the announcement will come in a joint communique issued after the meeting.

Biden said that the U.S. is committed to the fight against ISIS and will continue its counterterrorism operation in Iraq.

“We’re also committed to our security cooperation. Our shared fight against ISIS is critical for the stability of the region and our counterterrorism operation will continue, even as we shift to this new phase we’re going to be talking about,” Biden said.

He thanked Al-Kadhimi for coming to the White House and mentioned that his late son Beau Biden was in Iraq for a year with the Army National Guard. Biden said his administration is committed to strengthening the U.S.-Iraqi partnership.

“And the U.S.-Iraqi strategic dialogue is about commitments that expand our cooperation on issues like health care, climate, energy,” he said.

Biden also said he supports strengthening Iraq’s democracy and is “anxious” to make sure the country’s election happens in October.

“We’ve been talking a lot, our foreign ministers, our Cabinet members have been talking. We’re looking forward to seeing an election in October. We’re working very hard with the Iraqi government to make sure the [United Nations] UN and the GCC, we have oversight, that there’s full and fair elections,” he said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The administration’s announcement marks a symbolic end to the combat mission, but U.S. military operations in Iraq are expected to remain largely unchanged as troops there have been in a mostly training and advisory role for years.

Biden also told the prime minister that the 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines the U.S. sent Iraq will be there “in a couple of weeks.”

Al-Kadhimi said Iraq is “stronger than ever” and that he looks forward to working with Biden.

“I’d like to thank the American people on behalf of all Iraq’s people,” he said.

Tags counterterrorism Iraq Iraq War Joe Biden Mustafa Al-Kadhimi US military

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