The United States committed Wednesday to move all remaining combat forces from Iraq, although the two sides did not set a timeline in what would be the second withdrawal since the 2003 invasion.
The first “strategic dialogue” with Iraq under US President Joe Biden’s administration comes as Iranian-linked Shiite paramilitary groups fire rockets nearly daily at bases with foreign troops in hopes of forcing a US exit.
The two nations agreed in a videoconference led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein that Iraqi forces were ready to take on more responsibility.
“The parties confirmed that the mission of US and coalition forces has now transitioned to one focused on training and advisory tasks, thereby allowing for the redeployment of any remaining combat forces from Iraq, with the timing to be established in upcoming technical talks,” a joint statement said.
Iraq has walked a fine line in balancing its relations between the United States and Iran, which shares religious ties with its Shiite-majority neighbor.
Iraqi calls soared for a withdrawal of US troops in January 2020 after former president Donald Trump ordered the assassination in Baghdad of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani — and tensions have remained high.
Biden in February ordered airstrikes against targets in Syria of Iranian-linked paramilitaries after a rocket attack killed a contractor for the US-led coalition and injured US personnel.
But Biden, in a rare point of agreement with Trump, has been looking for ways to wind down what have come to be dubbed “endless wars.”
Trump had ordered a drawdown in his final months from Iraq as well as Afghanistan with the number of US troops in each country dipping to 2,500 by January 15.