The U.S. troops have ended their combat mission in Iraq, as per earlier agreements with the Iraqi government. But for the time being the Pentagon announced, all of the troops are staying put, with their role morphing into an “advise and assist” role with the Iraqi military that continues to fight insurgents from the Islamic State. 

The 2,500 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq as the transition to the advisory role resulted from talks between the U.S. and Iraqi governments. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said during an off-the-air press conference on December 9th, “This is a change in mission, not a change in physical posture,” Kirby said. “There won’t be a dramatic shift from yesterday to tomorrow.”

“The vast majority of what they’ve been doing for a while has been advise, assist and train,” he added stating those forces will retain the right to defend themselves if they are attacked.

The U.S.-led coalition has been fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) since the terror group swept across large swaths of Iraq and Syria in 2014 and established a self-styled “caliphate” and a return to 7th-century justice, replete with public executions. By 2017, ISIS had been driven from holding any territory at all in Iraq. However, they continued to conduct terrorist attacks on the people and government facilities. They’ve been pushed into the remote areas of the desert and the mountains.

Iraqi troops undergoing training from the U.S.-led coalition DVIDS photo

MG John W. Brennan Jr., commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a released statement and referred to ISIS with the term used by Iraqis and other countries in the region. 

“Many brave men and women gave their lives to ensure Daesh never returns, and as we complete our combat role, we will remain here to advise, assist, and enable the ISF, at the invitation of the Republic of Iraq,” he said. 

“ISIS is down but not out,” Brennan added. 

Back in July, President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi came to an agreement that would end the U.S.-led coalition’s combat mission but critics pointed out that it wouldn’t change the number of troops in Iraq, and it was a political move only in that it would help al-Kadhimi in the October elections.