Iraq PM: No US combat troops to stay in Iraq after IS

A US and an Iraqi government official say Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in talks with the Trump administration to keep American troops in Iraq after the fight against the Islamic State group in the country is concluded.

The talks come more than 14 years after the U.S. military invaded the country and unleashed a bloodbath that cost over a million lives and left the entire country shattered.

An Iraqi official told Stars and Stripes about five bases near Mosul and the Iraq-Syria border where it would make the most sense to station U.S. soldiers. The numbers went down eventually to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011 under the Obama administration.

It follows an Associated Press report which said US Defense Secretary James Mattis was in talks with Abadi to maintain a “modest” presence of troops in Iraq.

The army’s 9th Armored Division and elite forces of the federal police, known as Rapid Response, completely recaptured Mushairfah district and the Kanisah area including Mikhail’s Monastery, Abdul-Amir Yarallah from the Joint Operations Command said in a statement.

The denial followed comments by U.S. and Iraq officials in the Associated Press which said that United States secretary of defence James Mattis was now in talks with Abadi to maintain a “modest” USA military presence in Mosul after the defeat of IS.

Military officials are also discussing plans to add 3,000 to 5,000 troops in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has been rapidly regaining territory.

Just a few years ago, USA officials said the military mission was winding down in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Over the almost three-year-long fight against IS, Iraqi forces closely backed by the US-led coalition have retaken some 65 percent of the territory the extremists once held in the country, according to the US-led coalition.

In October, the Iraqi army backed by US-led coalition air strikes and local allies on the ground began a wide-ranging operation to retake Mosul, last bastion of Daesh in northern Iraq.

The Iraqi military has admitted bombing a disused school in western Mosul, but denied targeting civilians – saying the building was being used by ISIL as a bomb factory.

Survivors of the airstrike have angrily denounced these claims as lies.

As hundreds of thousands of civilians are still in Mosul, anti-IS forces have had to limit their use of aerial attacks and artillery in the city.

“So many of my neighbours and friends died”. Approximately 16,600 IDPs from eastern Mosul returned to areas of origin between March 30 and April 13, according to IOM.

Mosul is Iraq’s second most populous city, and is deemed the ISIS de facto capital in Iraq.

ISIS had initially issued a statement blaming the USA for the airstrike and the civilian toll, though the Iraqi Army has since admitted to the attack. “They rejoice in victory or martyrdom for the sake of liberating the rest of the city of Mosul from Daesh [ISIL] terrorists”, it said.

Mosul’s permanent bridges have mostly been destroyed during the seven-month campaign to take the city back from Islamic State.

Washington will no doubt utilize continuing sectarian conflict as a pretext for maintaining and escalating its military intervention in the country.

General view of destroyed buildings in Mosul