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Wednesday 18 October 2017

US combat troops will not stay in Iraq after IS fight ends - PM

Iraq's prime minister Haider al-Abadi said US combat troops will not stay in his country after the fight against IS ends
Iraq's prime minister Haider al-Abadi said US combat troops will not stay in his country after the fight against IS ends

US combat troops will not stay on in Iraq after the fight against Islamic State is over, Iraq's prime minister has said.

It follows reports on talks between Iraq and the United States on maintaining American forces in the country.

A US official and an official from the Iraqi government said talks about keeping US troops in Iraq were ongoing. The US official said discussions were in early stages and "nothing has been finalised".

Haider al-Abadi said there are no foreign combat troops on Iraqi soil and any American troops who stay on once IS militants are defeated will be advisers.

He said they will work to train Iraq's security forces to maintain "full readiness" for any "future security challenges".

Some US forces are carrying out combat operations with Iraqi forces on and beyond front lines in the fight against IS.

Mr al-Abadi has maintained they are acting only as advisers, apparently to get around the required parliamentary approval for their presence.

Any forces who remained would continue to be designated as advisers for the same reason, the Iraqi government official said.

Talks about maintaining American forces in Iraq point to a consensus by both governments that a longer-term US presence is needed to ensure an insurgency does not bubble up again once IS militants are driven out

That represents a contrast to the full US withdrawal in 2011.

The Pentagon has close to 7,000 US troops in Iraq, many not publicly acknowledged because they are on temporary duty or under specific personnel rules.

At the height of the surge of US forces in 2007, there were about 170,000 American troops in the country. The numbers were wound down eventually to 40,000, before the complete withdrawal in 2011.

The US intervention against the Islamic State group, launched in 2014, was originally cast as an operation that would largely be fought from the skies with a minimal footprint on Iraqi soil.

Nevertheless, that footprint has since expanded, given the Iraqi forces' need for support.

Iraqi forces are struggling to retake the last remaining Mosul areas that IS holds in the city's western half.

After a territorial victory, Iraqi and US-led coalition officials have warned of the potential for IS to carry out insurgent attacks in government held territory.

AP

Press Association

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