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US eyes eventual Iraq exit as ISIS threat wanes

April 8, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

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MOSUL, IRAQ - JUNE 21: A U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division (2nd Brigade) team and an MRAP (mine-resistant vehicle) on June 21, 2017 in west Mosul, Iraq. The Division provides advise and assist support to Iraqi forces. (Martyn Aim/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is eying an eventual withdrawal of US troops from Iraq as the country's security forces grow more capable and the threat of ISIS wanes, the two countries announced in a joint statement Wednesday.

(CNN)The Biden administration is eying an eventual withdrawal of US troops from Iraq as the country's security forces grow more capable and the threat of ISIS wanes, the two countries announced in a joint statement Wednesday.

That's still the objective, that's still the mission but we have always known that, eventually, there is going to be a redeployment of forces from Iraq," Kirby said during a news briefing Wednesday.

The US currently has some 2,500 troops in Iraq focused on the mission to defeat ISIS as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the global coalition to defeat what remains of the ISIS caliphate that controlled parts of Iraq and Syria.

The troops have now shifted to training and advisory tasks, "thereby allowing the for the redeployment of any remaining forces from Iraq," the joint US-Iraq statement said.

"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," said State Department spokesman Ned Price.

President Joe Biden has not said yet whether he intends to remove the remaining 2,500 troops from the country in the next three weeks or pursue a more gradual withdrawal over time.

There was no specific date set for a full withdrawal or a target number of troops to remove by a certain deadline, Kirby said.

The announcement comes as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is conducting a global review of US forces, looking at the size, scope and mission of troop deployments around the world.

Any decision on troop levels in Iraq will be made in consultation with the Iraqi government, Kirby noted.

"We always will, in any operational environment, continue to look at our footprint and our force posture and determine whether it's appropriately sized and scoped to the mission," Kirby said.

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