US general: American forces to stay in Iraq for foreseeable future
A top US general says American forces will remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future amid calls for their expulsion from the Arab country.
“I believe that going forward, they (Iraqis) going to want us to be with them,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command told reporters Tuesday after he met with Iraq’s new prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Baghdad.
Tensions rose between the US and Iraq in January after a US drone strike near the Baghdad airport martyred Iran's top anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a commander of Iraq’s anti-terror Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha’abi, which was at the forefront of fight against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.
After the deadly attack, authorized by US President Donald Trump, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously passed a resolution to expel all US forces from the Arab country.
Baghdad-Washington relations, however, have improved since al-Kadhimi assumed office in May. There are now talks between the US and Iraq on the future bilateral ties in the midst of calls for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.
McKenzie said, "Certainly we need some foreign presence in Iraq. I don't know that it needs to be as big as it is now, because ultimately that's going to be a political, not a military, decision. But I think the Iraqis know, welcome and value what we do for them now."
“I don’t sense there’s a mood right now for us to depart precipitously. And I’m pretty confident of that,” the top US general added.
Iraqi legislator, Muhammad al-Baldawi, warned on Tuesday that the United States is fomenting a soft coup against the anti-terror PMU, saying Washington is trying to constrain the role of the anti-terror forces.
“America supports and sponsors terrorism in Iraq, elsewhere in the world and even on its soil in a bid to oppress its own nation. The US seeks to dissolve the PMU, constrain its role and pressure it as if a soft coup is underway in Iraq,” Baldawi, a member of the Fatah (Conquest) Alliance pointed out.