News reports have cited Kurdish officials suggesting that the US remain in Iraq to prevent an ISIS resurgence, claiming that ISIS threat in Iraq continues, while the US holds a meeting on regional security in Poland, and as the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey gather in Sochi.
In late January, Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said US troops should stay in Iraq until the ISIS threat is fully eliminated. ..
According to the reports, the Kurds believe ISIS threat will continue because it has managed to hide among rural civilian populations, especially in areas between the Kurdistan region and Iraqi central government forces.
The US, according to the Kurds, should stay and continue to invest in training as well as coordination between the Peshmerga and Federal forces in Baghdad to help reduce the ISIS threat.
“When the mission of these [US] forces is to fight a neighboring country, like Iran for example, we reject that notion,” Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said.
“There are no American military bases in Iraq, we have said that more than once,” he stressed, explaining that US forces that are in Iraq are there at the invitation of the government under a Status of Forces Agreement with Baghdad.
While some in Baghdad want to depict the US as using Iraqi soil against Iran, there is a very real ISIS threat that continues despite the defeat of the organization in Syria, the reports explained. Experts say ISIS may have 10,000 loyal fighters in Iraq. Moreover, Gen. Joseph Votel, the US commander, said on Monday that there are tens of thousands of ISIS fighters dispersed in Iraq and Syria.
In remarks reprinted by the Kurdish-owned Rudaw, Barzani said “ISIS is no longer an organization in control of big cities” but “ISIS is not finished in this country.” He said that the presence of America troops should continue. “What stopped and ended ISIS was the support of the coalition forces, chief among them the United States.”
On Wednesday, Iraq’s prime minister said that the government would obey parliament if it voted to end the US presence in Iraq. Many Shi’ite political parties, such as Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon alliance and the Fatih party that came in second in elections last year, oppose US forces remaining in Iraq. But Iraq wants to hedge its bets.
MP Ahmed al-Assadi, representing Fatah bloc, said on Tuesday that US forces are still providing logistical and air support and that the US forces are not an enemy of Iraq. He said parliament would discuss the US presence when it reconvenes.