Emboldened by Afghanistan, Iran-Backed Militias Demand U.S. Troops Out of Iraq

Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Iranian-backed Badr Organization and leader of the Fateh Alliance, a coalition of Iranian-supported militia groups, speaks during a campaign rally in Baghdad on May 7, 2018, ahead of Iraq's parliamentary elections to be held on May 12. (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP) (Photo credit …
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images

Iraqi Shiite militia leader Hadi al-Amiri on Tuesday urged all foreign troops to leave Iraq by the end of the year, the Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported.

By December 31, 2021, “no foreign forces” should remain in Iraq, Al-Amiri told reporters at the Rafidain Center for Dialogue (RCD) forum in Baghdad.

“Not Turkish forces or French forces. This is a decision of the Iraqi people and not President Macron’s decision,” he added.

Al-Amiri, who leads both a “political Fatih alliance and the armed Badr Organization” in Iraq, according to Rudaw, referred to comments made by French President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to Iraq over the weekend. The Badr Organization is part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a coalition of Iran-backed militias formally integrated into the Iraqi armed forces.

Macron arrived in Baghdad on August 28, where he participated in a conference “aimed at easing Mideast tensions,” according to the Associated Press. The summit was attended by Iraqi government officials, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah, and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. In a speech at the conference, Macron vowed to maintain a French troop presence in Iraq “regardless of the Americans’ choices” and “for as long as the Iraqi government is asking for our support.”

“There are currently 3,500 foreign soldiers in Iraq, 2,500 of them Americans, as part of the global coalition against the Islamic State group (ISIS),” Rudaw reported on September 1. France currently contributes 800 military personnel to Iraq’s international troop coalition.

Washington held diplomatic talks with Baghdad from June 11-July 26 to discuss America’s role in Iraq moving forward. The two sides agreed that “there will be no U.S. forces with a combat role in Iraq by December 31, 2021,” according to a joint statement released at the conclusion of the strategic dialogue.

“The United States intends to continue its support for the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces], including the Peshmerga, to build their capacity to deal with future threats,” according to the statement. The Peshmerga are the military forces of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region.

A member of the French government delegation that accompanied Macron on his trip to Iraq from August 28-29 told Rudaw on Saturday Paris “will continue to play a leading role in fighting terror” in Iraq in the coming months.

“France is working with the Iraqis and Kurds beyond the coalition. Even if the Americans leave, even if France can’t take over all the responsibilities of the Americans, France will continue to be beside Iraq and the Kurds to lead the fight against terrorism,” Jean-Jacques Bridey, the head of the French parliament’s France-Iraq Friendship Committee, told Rudaw on August 28.

An international coalition of troops in 2017 helped Iraq defeat Islamic State terrorists who took over about 40 percent of the country through a military campaign launched in 2014.

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