According to a mutual statement issued by both countries, “the transition of U.S. and other international forces away from combat operations to training, equipping, and assisting the ISF reflects the success of their strategic partnership.”
The continuous partnership “ensures support to the ISF’s continued efforts to ensure ISIS can never again threaten Iraq’s stability,” the statement read.
During the talks, both countries emphasized the need for continued security cooperation in the region to counter ISIS.
“U.S. forces are in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi Government for the sole purpose of supporting Iraqi forces in the campaign against ISIS, and of course, that campaign remains important and it remains ongoing,” the governments said.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hassan and his mission, which included representatives of the Kurdistan Regional Government, attended the discussions.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Monday that the United States explains the Iraqi purpose of “having a security force that’s capable of defending Iraq’s own sovereignty and denying terrorist groups the use of Iraq as a base for operations.”
He continued, “The coalition continues to support partner forces in Iraq and in Syria with advising air support, provision of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and conditions-based equipment divestment.”
Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hassan said in a statement during the discussions that Iraq still requires U.S. support related to training, arming, and advising its military.
The discussions—held virtually because of the pandemic—started in June under the Trump administration. Wednesday’s round, the first under President Joe Biden, centered on an alignment of issues, from Iraq’s energy security to the ongoing counterterrorism works.
Shiite political factions and militias loyal to Iran have been pressing Iraqi politicians and making threats against leaders in the belief of ordering U.S. troops to completely withdraw from Iraq.
Last week, local militias in Iraq true to Tehran threatened Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, requiring that he remove American troops out of the country. An attendance of heavily-armed Shiite militiamen drove openly through Baghdad, denouncing the U.S. presence as they threatened to cut off al-Kadhimi’s ear.
Two Iraqi officials said Wednesday that al-Kadhimi subsequently asked Iran’s leaders to rein in Iran-backed militias in Iraq and suggested he would face the pro-Iran factions. In the note, al-Kadhimi threatened to “announce clearly who backs these groups,” the officials said.