Joey Hood, chargé d'affaires at the US embassy in Baghdad,
affirmed that Iraq still needs the presence of foreign troops inside its territory,
saying on Tuesday that Iraqi armed forces are currently not ready to
protect the country.
“The Iraqi armed forces aren’t ready to safeguard [Iraq’s] security without the support of foreign troops,” Hood said.
Qais al-Khazali, the leader of pro-Iranian militias of Asaib Ahl al-Haq slammed Hood's remarks, describing them as an “insult."
“The remarks by Hood about the incapability of Iraqi forces to encounter terror is an insult to all Iraqi forces,” Khazali wrote on Twitter.
The Shi’ite militia leader argued that Hood’s remarks were an attempt to justify the prolonged stay of the US forces in Iraq.
The top Pentagon official assured Iraqi leaders earlier in February that the US will stick to its limited military role in Iraq, a message aimed at recent talks by some Iraqi politicians of forcing a US troop withdrawal, ABC News reported.
Pat Shanahan, the acting secretary of defense, said that in talks with Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi, he stressed US respect for Iraqi sovereignty, an issue that has become a hot-button topic among Iraqis since President Donald Trump suggested using Iraq as a base for monitoring neighboring Iran and for potential attacks against remaining elements of the ISIS group in Syria.