US troops ‘to continue mission’ in Iraq, Pompeo says

Washington DC Bureau
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WASHINGTON — The Iraqi government is asking for the withdrawal of American soldiers fighting ISIS in Iraq after a pair of American and Iranian attacks on Iraqi soil.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would not confirm in a Friday press briefing whether the U.S. is preparing to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

“We’ve been there to perform a training mission and to help the Iraqi security forces be successful and to continue the campaign against ISIS,” Pompeo said. “We’re going to continue that mission.”

The Iraqi parliament voted to expel U.S. troops after the U.S. ordered the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani while he was in Baghdad.

Even after President Trump signaled Wednesday that the immediate threat of armed escalation may be over, Iraq’s prime minister on Friday called on Pompeo to begin preparations for withdrawal. “We are happy to continue the conversation with the Iraqis about what the right structure is,” Pompeo said.

“Two weeks ago, it was Iraqis in the streets protesting against Iran, wanting to get their influence out of Iraq,” Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) said. “And now those same protesters are turning against us, including the Iraqi parliament.”

There are now questions about what the fight against terrorism will look like if U.S. forces leave Iraq.

Some Democrats like Gallego say the attack that killed Soleimani may give Iran exactly what it wanted. “To get the U.S. out of the Middle East so they can be the power in that area,” Gallego said.

During the briefing, Pompeo said NATO representatives were at the state department to develop a plan “to protect and defend and keep the American people safe while reducing our cost, our resources and our burden and the risk to our soldiers.”

This came after President Trump on Thursday called for more NATO involvement in the Middle East.

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