BAGHDAD, Iraq – The Iraqi government has denied reports in the local and international media that it has signed a deal with the United States that would allow US forces to stay in Iraq after the defeat of ISIS group in the country.
“We emphasize that there are no combat forces from any country on the Iraqi territories in the first place so that we can discuss [whether] they can stay or not,” said a statement from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office Friday morning.
The government denies having any deals with any foreign country on keeping troops in Iraq post ISIS.
“The Iraqi government did not reach a deal with any country in relations to its military role with Iraq for the stage after the decisive victory over the terrorism,” the Iraqi government added.
Baghdad said it has its own plans and strategies to face future challenges by advancing the Iraqi army through training and arming its forces.
It continued to say that Iraq remains “open” to “all international expertise” in this regard, provided they respect the sovereignty of Iraq.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that the Iraqi PM Abadi was in talks with the US administration to keep American troops after the war against the extremist group is concluded, citing a US official and an Iraqi official.
The news agency however did not say if the two sides had agreed on a deal.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, AP reported.
The two officials told the AP that discussions are ongoing and that nothing has been finalized.
The two officials rationalized that the two countries are of the belief that the US should not withdraw from Iraq like it did in 2011.
The US withdrew its forces from Iraq under the Obama administration after it failed to secure legal immunity for its troops and they also needed the approval of the Iraqi parliament.
"There is a general understanding on both sides that it would be in the long-term interests of each to have that continued presence. So as for agreement, yes, we both understand it would be mutually beneficial. That we agree on," the U.S. official said.
According to an Iraqi official, the US troops would continue to be designated as advisers to avoid seeking the approval of the Iraqi parliament.
The troops are to be stationed in existing Iraqi bases in at least five locations in Mosul, and along the Iraqi border with Syria, the Iraqi official told AP.
The US has up to 7, 000 troops in Iraq who are on train, advise or assist roles to the Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga in their fight against ISIS, especially in and around Mosul.
The US Secretary of Defense James Mattis is said to lead the America talks, according to the US official.
Secretary Mattis met with PM Abadi in Baghdad in late February when he visited the country for the first time since he was appointed the secretary of defense.
Kurdish President Masoud Barzani expressed hopes in early January for the United States to not repeat its 2011 mistake of a troop withdrawal after Mosul is rid of ISIS.
“I hope that the United States will not repeat that mistake. I told the military commanders who were on the ground in 2010 and 2011 that if the US forces withdrew from Iraq, it would give an opportunity for terrorism to grow. . .” Barzani told the Washington Post referring to the full withdrawal of US troops in Iraq by former President Obama. “Had a limited number of American troops stayed, ISIL would not have been able to take over Ramadi or Mosul.”
The US started to redeploy its troops back to Iraq after the rise of ISIS in 2014 when the radical group controlled large parts of both Iraq and Syria, including Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul.