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US withdraws 2,500 troops amid uptick in attacks: Iraq PM

Al-Kadhimi made the remarks on Al-Iraqiya television channel [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 October, 2020

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Washington has withdrawn another 2,500 troops from Iraq as US assets in the country continue to be targeted in rocket attacks.
Iraq's prime minister on Saturday confirmed at least 2,500 US soldiers have withdrawn amid increasing "annoyance and concern" from Washington over repeated attacks on assets in the country.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi described the move as part of "a great achievement" made in ongoing strategic dialogue with the US, during an interview with the Al-Iraqiya channel.

"Before my trip to Washington, I met all political forces and some of them asked me to negotiate with the Americans that they would withdraw from Iraq over a period of 8 years. I negotiated and we got a period of 3 years," the PM said.

The remarks come as Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein on Wednesday said Baghdad is "not happy" with a "dangerous" threat by Washington to pull its troops and diplomats out of Iraq.

Several political and diplomatic sources have told AFP that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued an ultimatum last week that all US personnel would leave Iraq unless the government puts a stop to a rash of attacks against them.

"A US withdrawal could lead to further pullouts" by members of the US-led coalition fighting holdout jihadists, which would be "dangerous, because the Islamic State group threatens not only Iraq but the whole region," the minister said.

Read also: Iraq to establish special force to protect Green Zone amid continued threat to US embassy

"We hope that the United States will rethink its decision," which at the moment is only "preliminary", Hussein added.

"Some people in Washington make parallels with Benghazi but it's a faulty analysis, just as this is a faulty decision," he said, referring to Libya's second largest city.

Four US personnel, including the ambassador to Libya, were killed in Benghazi in 2012, when Islamist militants among a crowd of protesters stormed the US consulate.

Between October 2019 and July this year in Iraq, around 40 rocket attacks have targeted the US embassy or bases housing US troops.

Since al-Kadhimi was received in the White House amid great fanfare in August, the frequency of such attacks has increased significantly.

In the space of just two months, another 40 attacks have taken place, targeting not only the embassy and military bases, but also the supply convoys of Iraqi contractors for Washington and its allies.

Recent attacks have mostly been claimed by little known factions among the array of Shia armed groups equipped and trained by neighbouring Iran during the war against the Islamic State extremist group.

The armed groups have been locked in a tug-of-war with al-Kadhmi, who is seen as more pro-American than some of his predecessors. 

Underlining the risks, a rocket attack targeting Baghdad airport hit a nearby home on Monday evening, killing five children and two women from the same family.

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