US and Iraq to restart talks on troops' pullout
The United States and Iraq are set to resume strategic dialogue in April, the White House said on Tuesday.
The talks, which began in June 2020 under the Trump administration, will be the first under US President Joe Biden, who assumed office in January.
US: Troops help fight 'Islamic State'
Officials from both countries will discuss the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 US combat forces in the country.
"The meetings will further clarify that coalition forces are in Iraq solely for the purpose of training and advising Iraqi forces to ensure that ISIS [the so-called Islamic State] cannot reconstitute," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The officials also plan on broaching other topics, including security, trade, climate, and culture, she added. The two sides are expected to discuss "mutual interests" and their impact on the relationship between Washington and Baghdad.
Anger over Soleimani killing lingers
Relations between the two countries have been fraught with tension, particularly after the US killing of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis just outside the Baghdad airport in January 2020.
The attack spurred Iraqi lawmakers to pass a non-binding resolution to oust US-led coalition forces from the country.
Relations have improved since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi took over the helm of Iraq's government in May last year. But some parties, notably parliament's Iran-backed Fatah bloc, continue to call for the withdrawal of US forces.
Both Iraqi and US officials say they support a scheduled withdrawal of forces from Iraq, but questions remain over time-frames and the scope of the threat posed by the "Islamic State" group.
Former president Donald Trump pursued a policy of bringing US troops home from what he termed "endless wars," in a bid to fulfill a 2016 presidential campaign promise.
kmm/dj (AP, Reuters)