Further reductions to the U.S. military footprint in Iraq will be among the topics of discussion when Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi visits the White House on Thursday.
Currently about 5,000 American troops are stationed in the country, even though President Donald Trump declared the Islamic State group defeated nine months ago and ordered the start of removing U.S. forces from the region.
American service members still stationed there are providing a train-and-assist role for local security forces similar to the ongoing mission in Afghanistan. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, al-Kadhimi said his country will need continued military support for years, but that assistance might not include boots on the ground in his country.
Iraq’s prime minister said Monday ahead of a much anticipated trip to Washington that his country still needs U.S. assistance to counter the threat posed by the Islamic State group.
In a press briefing on Wednesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the conversation between President Donald Trump and al-Kadhimi would include “a range of regional security issues, including the enduring defeat of ISIS.”
A senior administration official said that no timelines for a withdrawal of troops have been included in the planned discussions, and no specific reduction numbers are expected to be announced.
However, the long-term plans for U.S. troops deployed to the country will be a key focus of the talks, and of talks between NATO leaders and Iraqi leaders in months to come.
Defense official says two drones collided over Idlib, Syria.
The visit will be al-Kadhimi’s first to the White House. Trump visited Iraq in December 2018 and met with U.S. troops stationed there, but was unable to meet with Iraqi government leadership face-to-face at the time.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted senior Iraqi officials for diplomatic talks about regional security. Officials said the White House talks will also include some of those topics, and several other cabinet officials are expected to join in.
More than 4,500 U.S. troops died supporting operations in Iraq since the 2003 invasion and another 33,000 were wounded in action.