Qais Khazali, secretary general of the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq movement, a subdivision of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) or Hashd al-Sha’abi, on Wednesday criticized the agreement reached two days earlier between US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on ending the US combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021, but still keeping US troops there with what is called a training and advisory role.
Under the agreement, which was announced at the end of the fourth round of US-Iraq strategic talks, there would be no change to the number of US troops in Iraq, now about 2,500, reports say.
Khazali warned about the harmful presence of the US military in the country and said, “We need the prime minister’s unequivocal confirmation that no US air base will remain in Iraq.”
He said the government should set up a parliamentary committee to pursue the non-violation of Iraqi sovereignty by the United States and introduce the bases hosting American military personnel, and that the committee must have the right to enter the Ain al-Assad airbase without prior notice.
He also said that the US drones are actually spying on and monitoring resistance factions and Hashd al-Sha’abi in Iraq’s southern and central provinces.
“The US government has no real intention to leave Iraq. The strategic dialog between Washington and Baghdad is a deceptive move that will not lead to the pullout of US troops from Iraq, and any agreement [in this regard] is only a play of words,” he said.
“The United States has occupied Iraq and will not leave easily and without strong resistance. The cost of keeping US troops in Iraq will be high,” Khazali said.
The Iraqi politician said, “The resistance movements will not be deceived unless practical steps are taken to oust the Americans.”
“The resistance would continue until a real withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq comes about,” he said, describing the demand for the pullout of US forces as “national, legal and legitimate.”
Speaking alongside Kadhimi at the White House on Monday, Biden said, “Our role in Iraq will be … to be available, to continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS (Daesh) as it arises, but we’re not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission.”
However, Khazali said, the US training during the existence of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group proved to be a failure as Iraq performed better when it was not under American training.
In early 2003, the US invaded Iraq under the later debunked pretext that the regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.
It withdrew soldiers from Iraq between 2007 and 2011, but redeployed them in 2014 along with other partners to allegedly counter the threat of Daesh.
Iraq managed to end the territorial rule of Daesh in the country thanks to the sacrifices of the national army and the PMU, which had the backing of neighboring Iran.
On January 3, 2020, the US assassinated Iran’s anti-terror commander General Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Hashd al-Sha’abi, two influential figures in the fight against Daesh.
Two days later, the Iraqi parliament unanimously approved a bill, demanding the expulsion of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the Arab country.
Since then, however, Washington has been dragging its feet on the troop pullout and targeting anti-terror groups from time to time.