Beirut: In a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi asked the United States send a delegation to Iraq to set up a mechanism for U.S. troop withdrawal from the country, a statement from the prime minister’s office said Friday.
The request followed a vote by the Iraqi parliament to expel thousands of U.S. troops, a direct consequence of a U.S. drone attackthat killed senior Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and nine companionsin Baghdad a week ago.
Pentagon chief Mark Esper said later that he believes the Iraqi people and lawmakers still want the U.S. to maintain a presence in the country, 17 years after it invaded to oust Saddam Hussein.
The killing set off a string of events in the region.
On Tuesday, Iran retaliated for the death of its revered Quds Force commander by launching more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two military bases that house U.S. troops in Iraq.
President Trump said the strike caused no American or Iraqi deaths and that new sanctions on Iran will be imposed.
The Iraqi prime minister has repeatedly insisted that U.S. troop withdrawal was the only path toward de-escalation.
In the phone call on Thursday, he asked Pompeo “to send representatives to Iraq to put in place a mechanism for implementing the parliament’s decision for the safe withdrawal of forces from Iraq.”
According to a statement, Abdul Mahdi also shared his objections regarding U.S. forces entering Iraq and American aircraft flying in Iraqi airspace without the consent of the Iraqi government.
More than 5,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq under a U.S.-led global coalition set up in 2014 to fight Daesh.
On Sunday, the 81-country coalition announced it has paused its training activities and is redirecting its resources to ensure the safety of personnel and bases, citing “repeated rocket attacks over the last two months.”