Biden ends the combat mission in Iraq and shifts US foreign policy emphasis

Monday's agreement by President Joe Biden to officially close the US combat mission against Iraqi terrorists was another step towards ending the long-running military engagements that started in the years after September 11th terror attacks.

Biden ends the combat mission in Iraq and shifts US foreign policy emphasis

Biden, along with Mustafa al-Kadhimi, told reporters at the Oval Office that the US mission to Iraq would shift.

"I believe things are going well. Our role in Iraq is to... continue to train, assist and deal with ISIS as it comes. The President stated that we won't be participating in any combat missions by the end the year.

Biden, who is also the politically weakened prime minister, said that "We support strengthening Iraq’s democracy" and was eager to see the election go ahead in October. We are also committed to our security cooperation and our joint fight against ISIS. It is crucial for stability in the region. Our counter-terrorism cooperation will continue even as we move to the new phase.

  • Unlike Biden's decision to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan, the end of the combat mission comes at Iraq's urging. The country is caught in a balancing act between anti-American factions in the country, Iranian-backed militias and the stabilizing presence of the American military.

    The announcement will not lead to the US withdrawing troops from Iraq, as was the case in Afghanistan. Officials declined to comment on how the number of US troops will change after Monday's announcement. There are currently 2500 US troops in Iraq. Both the US and Iraq expect to announce that the US mission will be fully shifted to an advisory role by the end of the year -- meaning that some changes to current levels may only be on paper.

    These two decisions, however, are the best examples of Biden’s efforts to move American foreign policy away form decisions made almost two decades ago. Instead, Biden wants to concentrate on China's threats, where a high-ranking American diplomat visited this week for a series of tense meetings.

    In 2003, American troops and their allies invaded Iraq on the assumption that Saddam Hussein's government had created weapons of mass destruction. They were never found. Biden voted to authorize force against Iraq as a senator, and even joined then-President George W. Bush in the White House East Room when he signed the resolution. Later, he criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war.

    In 2011, then-President Barack Obama declared a withdrawal from the country. They returned to fight Islamic State terrorists in 2014. As vice president for Iraq, Biden traveled to Iraq at multiple points and engaged with various political factions.

    Beau, his son, was a reservist before he died from brain cancer in 2015. Biden stated that he believes his son's condition was caused by exposure to toxic chemicals in military waste burn bits.

    Their governments held technical talks on Friday and Thursday as part of the strategic dialogue between their countries. Biden will emphasize continued diplomatic and humanitarian support to Iraq as part of Monday's meeting. He will also discuss a plan for providing 500,000 doses Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccination.

    The US presence in Iraq isn't making a significant adjustment to its combat mission. It already focuses most of its efforts on advising and supporting the Iraqi military.

    Recent drone strikes by Iran have targeted US troops in Iraq, prompting back-and forth retaliatory actions. The tensions escalated dramatically when Donald Trump, then-President, ordered the strike to kill Qasem Solimani, Iran’s top commander, while he was visiting a Baghdad Airport.

    Although it does not represent a significant increase in troop levels, the President's symbolic departure from Iraq is still an important one. Biden repeatedly stated that it was time to concentrate on the threats of today, not 20 years ago, in defending his decision to withdraw Afghanistan from combat.

    The results of the US 18-year presence in Iraq are mixed, just like in Afghanistan.

    • "Nobody will declare'mission accomplished'," a senior administration official stated. This was a reference to Bush's huge banner that was displayed behind him on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, when he declared combat operations against Iraqi forces three months after the first US troop entered the country.

      The official stated that the goal was the "enduring defeat of ISIS." We recognize that you need to exert pressure on these networks in their attempt to reconstitute but the US and its coalition forces have the ability to recede deep into the background, where they are training, advising and sharing intelligence, as well as helping with logistics.

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