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Iraqi prime minister tells Pompeo to 'prepare a mechanism' for troop withdrawal

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi on Friday called on U.S. Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' MORE to send a delegation to Iraq to "prepare a mechanism" for U.S. troop withdrawal from the country, according to a Friday statement, The Associated Press reported.

The request was made in a Thursday phone call between Pompeo and Abdul-Mahdi, according to a statement from the office of the Iraqi caretaker prime minister, the AP reported. It said Pompeo called the Iraqi official. 

Iraq’s parliament voted earlier this week to expel the U.S. military from the country after the Pentagon confirmed that President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE authorized an airstrike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani just outside Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. Abdul-Mahdi had also previously called for the move, the AP reported.

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The Iraqi leader asked Pompeo to “send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism to carry out the parliament’s resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq,” according to the statement, the AP reported.

“The prime minister said American forces had entered Iraq and drones are flying in its airspace without permission from Iraqi authorities and this was a violation of the bilateral agreements,” the statement said. 

The Iraqi prime minister reaffirmed that his country rejects violations of its sovereignty, citing the attack on Soleimani in addition to the ballistic missiles that Iran fired at two bases in the country that house U.S. troops.

A spokesperson for the State Department in a statement said the U.S. presence in Iraq was meant to continue the fight against ISIS and to protect Americans, Iraqis and coalition partners. The statement signaled the U.S. was not sending a delegation to Iraq to discuss withdrawing troops.

"At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership—not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East," spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.

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She said a NATO delegation was also at the State Department on Friday to discuss increasing NATO's role in Iraq. 

"There does, however, need to be a conversation between the U.S. and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership," the statement concluded. "We want to be a friend and partner to a sovereign, prosperous, and stable Iraq."

Top American military leaders, including Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperActing Defense secretary makes surprise trip to Somalia Overnight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Ex-Nunes aide linked to Biden conspiracy theories will lead Pentagon transition MORE have said the U.S. will not withdraw troops from Iraq. 

Trump threatened this week to impose sanctions on the country if forced to withdraw American troops. 

“If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Sunday.

However, the president said Wednesday, "Eventually we want to be able to let Iraq run its own affairs, and that’s very important. So, at some point, we want to get out."