As he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi at the White House on July 26, President Joe Biden said the U.S. combat mission in Iraq is drawing to a close.
“Our role in Iraq will be … just to be available, to continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS as it arrives,” Biden told reporters, describing an ongoing and evolving presence in the country. “But we are not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission.”
Some 2,500 U.S. troops are presently in the country and have been primarily working on “assisting Iraqi forces,” rather than fighting in combat themselves, according to the AP. Biden didn’t indicate whether that troop level would change.
Al-Kadhimi, who became Iraq’s prime minister in 2020, told the AP prior to his visit to Washington, “There is no need for any foreign combat forces on Iraqi soil.”
“What we want from the U.S. presence in Iraq is to support our forces in training and developing their efficiency and capabilities, and in security cooperation,” he said.
The Iraq news came as Biden attempts to extract the U.S. from another prolonged conflict begun after the 9/11 attacks: the war in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are scheduled to depart by the end of August.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported July 26 that civilian casualties in that country are reaching record levels in the first half of the year, particularly since May, when what Biden called America’s “final withdrawal” began. Last week’s FRONTLINE special report Leaving Afghanistan examined the consequences of America’s departure.
A forthcoming FRONTLINE documentary, America After 9/11, airing Sept. 7, 2021, from filmmaker Michael Kirk and his team, will explore how the 9/11 attacks ushered in an era of fear, mistrust and division — and will examine the legacy of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how they’ve impacted the U.S.’s standing in the world.
In the meantime, revisit this archive of FRONTLINE films chronicling what has happened in Iraq in the 18 years since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.