Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani says he supports an indefinite presence of U.S. troops in the country to combat ISIS, putting him at odds with his supporters and Iranian-backed officials.
In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Sudani said U.S. and NATO troop contingents were necessary to train and assist Iraqi units in countering ISIS but mostly stay out of combat.
“Inside Iraq we do not need combat forces,” Sudani said. “If there is a threat for Iraq, it is the penetration of [ISIS] cells through Syria.”
The U.S. military and its partner forces in Iraq and Syria continued their fight to degrade ISIS in 2022, running hundreds of operations that killed or captured more than 1,000 ISIS fighters. ‘
The U.S. and partner forces ran 313 total operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria in 2022, United States Central Command (CENTCOM) said, with 108 of those operations being conducted in Syria and 191 in Iraq. The operations resulted in the detention of 374 ISIS fighters in total, 215 in Syria and 159 in Iraq. A total of at least 686 fighters were also killed in 2022, 466 in Syria and at least 159 in Syria.
There are currently around 2,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and another multinational training force under NATO command. Around 900 U.S. troops are stationed in Syria.
Sudani told The Journal he wants Iraq to have relations with the United States comparable to what Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf oil-and-gas producers enjoy.
“We strive for that,” he said. “I don’t see this as an impossible matter, to see Iraq have a good relationship with Iran and the U.S.”
Sudani said he plans to send a high-level delegation to Washington for talks with U.S. officials sometime next month. Aides said they hoped the move would pave the way for a future meeting with President Biden.
Fox News’ Michael Lee contributed to this report.