American and Iraqi officials are meeting to discuss the future of American military presence in Iraq. While some analysts are reporting that the talks may include a complete U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, it is instead expected that the U.S. will shift to an advisory-only role. 

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is slated to meet with President Joe Biden at the White House on Monday, which is when the announcement is expected to be made. 

As part of the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue, a number of other high-level technical talks between American and Iraqi officials took place on Thursday.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby released a statement saying, “During the meeting, both parties reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Iraq bilateral security relationship, their shared commitment to the Defeat-ISIS mission, and the need for U.S. and Coalition to be able to safely support the Iraqi Security Forces. They also discussed the long-term U.S.-Iraq security cooperation partnership and areas for cooperation beyond counterterrorism.” 

An End to Combat Missions May Not Mean a Reduced US Presence

US Could Shift From a Combat to an Advisory Role in Iraq
U.S. troops with Iraqi operators. Iraqi special operations forces are considered very well-trained and capable. (DoD)

“I think it’s important to remember that we are [in Iraq] at the invitation of the Iraqi government,” Kirby added. “This mission, which was focused on the Islamic State, was never intended to be permanent. And everybody has always understood that there would be a time when there would no longer be a need for U.S. combat forces inside Iraq.”

Under the scenario that is expected to be announced, the U.S. will once again end its combat mission in Iraq and shift to a strictly advisory role. Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003, the U.S. withdrew its troops in 2011 when then-President Barack Obama concluded that the need for American combat troops was over. That led to the rise of ISIS, which took over vast swaths of Iraq and Syria and prompted the re-introduction of American troops in the country.

There are currently about 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq. Should the role of the U.S. in Iraq be modified, that number may not change much as combat troops will redeploy back to the United States and be replaced by advisory and logistical personnel. 

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Prime Minister Kadhimi is walking a tightrope between the need for a long-term U.S. presence in his country and the growing influence of Iran in both the government and militia forces. Many members of the Iraqi parliament have passed a non-binding resolution calling for the U.S. troops to withdraw.