POLITICS

Iraq and US begin formal talks to end coalition mission formed to fight the Islamic State group

Jan 27, 2024, 6:05 AM

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, right, chairs the first session of negotiations betwe...

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, right, chairs the first session of negotiations between Iraq and the United States to wind down the International Coalition mission in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, Pool)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, Pool)

BEIRUT (AP) — The United States and Iraq held a first session of formal talks Saturday in Baghdad aimed at winding down the mission of a U.S.-led military coalition formed to fight the Islamic State group in Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said in a statement that he had sponsored “the commencement of the first round of bilateral dialogue between Iraq and the United States of America to end the mission of the Coalition in Iraq.”

The beginning of talks, announced by both countries on Thursday, comes as U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria have been regularly targeted by drone attacks launched by Iran-backed militias against the backdrop of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

The U.S. says plans to set up a committee to negotiate the terms of the mission’s end were first discussed last year, and the timing isn’t related to the attacks.

Washington has had a continuous presence in Iraq since its 2003 invasion. Although all U.S. combat forces left in 2011, thousands of troops returned in 2014 to help the government of Iraq defeat IS.

Since the extremist group lost its hold on the territory it once seized, Iraqi officials have periodically called for a withdrawal of coalition forces, particularly in the wake of a U.S. airstrike in January 2020 that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis outside the Baghdad airport.

The issue has surfaced again since Israel launched its major counteroffensive in Gaza following the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack in southern Israel.

Since mid-October, a group of Iran-backed militias calling itself the Islamic Resistance in Iraq have launched regular attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, which the group said are in retaliation for Washington’s support for Israel in the war in Gaza.

Those estimated 2,500 U.S. troops and the bases they serve on have drawn more than 150 missile and drone attacks fired by the militias. Scores of U.S. personnel have been wounded, including some with traumatic brain injuries, during the attacks.

The U.S. has struck militia targets in return, including some linked to the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of mainly Shiite, Iran-backed paramilitary groups that is officially under the control of the Iraqi military. But it largely operates on its own in practice. Iraqi officials have complained that the U.S. strikes are a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.

U.S. officials have said that talks about setting up a committee to decide on the framework for ending the coalition’s mission were already underway before Oct. 7 and the decision is unrelated to the attacks.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq nevertheless took credit for the decision in a statement, saying that it “proves that the Americans only understand the language of force.” It vowed to continue its attacks.

Politics

Associated Press

Biden will send Ukraine air defense weapons, artillery once Senate approves, Zelenskyy says

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday the U.S. will send badly needed air defense weaponry once the Senate approves a massive national security aid package that includes $61 billion for Ukraine. Zelensky said in a posting on X that Biden also assured him that a coming package of […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Review of UN agency helping Palestinian refugees found Israel did not express concern about staff

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — An independent review of the neutrality of the U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees found that Israel never expressed concern about anyone on the staff lists it has received annually since 2011. The review was carried out after Israel alleged that a dozen employees of the agency known as UNRWA had participated […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

The Latest | Lawyers in Trump hush money case paint competing portraits of him in opening statements

NEW YORK (AP) — In opening statements in Donald Trump’s historic hush money trial, prosecutors said Monday that the former president “orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt” the 2016 presidential election. Defense attorneys countered, calling Trump “innocent” and saying the Manhattan district attorney’s office “should never have brought this case.” The commencement of the proceedings […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

With homelessness on the rise, the Supreme Court weighs bans on sleeping outdoors

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court wrestled with major questions about the growing issue of homelessness on Monday as it considered whether cities can ban people from sleeping outside when shelter space is lacking. The case is considered the most significant to come before the high court in decades on the issue as record numbers […]

17 hours ago

Associated Press

Trump tried to ‘corrupt’ the 2016 election, prosecutor alleges as hush money trial gets underway

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump tried to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election by preventing damaging stories about his personal life from becoming public, a prosecutor told jurors Monday at the start of the former president’s historic hush money trial. A defense lawyer countered by saying that Trump was “innocent” and by attacking the […]

18 hours ago

Associated Press

Terry Anderson, AP reporter held captive for years, has died

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Terry Anderson, the globe-trotting Associated Press correspondent who became one of America’s longest-held hostages after he was snatched from a street in war-torn Lebanon in 1985 and held for nearly seven years, has died at 76. Anderson, who chronicled his abduction and torturous imprisonment by Islamic militants in his best-selling 1993 […]

1 day ago

Iraq and US begin formal talks to end coalition mission formed to fight the Islamic State group