US ends combat mission against ISIS in Iraq, but troops remain

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The U.S. military on Thursday ended its combat mission in Iraq, transferring instead to a training and advisory role, the Pentagon announced.

Under the terms from a July agreement, the United States for months has wound down the mission against the Islamic State, with about 2,500 service members still in Iraq. 

Those troops will remain for now to advise and assist Iraqi security forces, a change finalized after technical talks wrapped up between Washington and Baghdad on Thursday.

“This is the natural evolution. This is in keeping with our commitments to the Iraqi government,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters.

He added that there will not be “a dramatic shift” in the number of U.S. forces in the country.

U.S. forces have been in Iraq since 2014 to lead a coalition to defeat the Islamic State after the extremist group took over large swaths of it and Syria. At the height of their power, the group controlled 110,000 square kilometers of territory with a height of 40,000 fighters.

The military defeat of the group was declared in 2017, but its scattered fighters have continued a low-level insurgency.

Following the group’s defeat, the Biden administration agreed to pull all combat forces in Iraq by Dec. 31, with a new mission to advise and assist Iraqi forces as they continue to fend off ISIS.

“Many brave men and women gave their lives to ensure [ISIS] never returns, and as we complete our combat role, we will remain here to advise, assist, and enable the ISF, at the invitation of Republic of Iraq,” Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve head Maj. Gen. John Brennan said in a statement.

“In this new phase, our transformative partnership with Iraq symbolizes the need for constant vigilance. [ISIS] is down, but not out,” Brennan added.

Other threats in Iraq include Iran-backed Shiite militia groups, which are responsible for dozens of rocket and drone attacks.

“I think we have to assume that threats to U.S. forces remain credible in Iraq,” Kirby said.

Tags American-led intervention in Iraq Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve Iraq John Brennan John Kirby Occupation of Iraq Operation Inherent Resolve Syria

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