The Trump administration is in talks with the Iraqi government about keeping American troops in Iraq after the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the country is over, The Associated Press reported.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, are discussing “what the long-term U.S. presence would look like,” a U.S. official told the AP.
The official said “several thousand ... similar to what we have now, maybe a little more,” troops would stay in the country, but added that discussions were in early stages and “nothing has been finalized.”
The Pentagon has nearly 7,000 U.S. troops in Iraq today to train Iraqi forces, coordinate airstrikes and ground operations and operate on the front lines in the fight against ISIS in Mosul. That is down from the Iraq War high of about 170,000 U.S. troops in 2007. That number dropped to 40,000 before complete troop withdrawal in 2011.
The U.S. launched a campaign of airstrikes against ISIS in August of 2014, after it overran Mosul and swaths of Iraq's north and west territory. The campaign has since grown to include forces on the ground, with Iraqi soldiers backed by the U.S.-led coalition to retake territory from ISIS.
The U.S. forces that stay after the ISIS fight would be stationed inside existing Iraqi bases in at least five locations in the Mosul area and along Iraq’s border with Syria, an Iraqi government official told the AP. They would continue to be designated as advisers and would help control security in the city.