After Soleimani Killing, US Soldiers Resume Operations in Iraq
The United States military has resumed counter-terrorism operations in Iraq against Islamic State and is slowly moving to restart train-and-support missions with Iraqi forces. These activities were suspended in the wake of the January 3 assassination of Iranian Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani during a US drone strike in the Iraqi capital. The attack also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a deputy commander of Iranian-backed Iraqi armed groups collectively known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). Baghdad reacted with fury to the killings, with parliament passing a non-binding resolution demanding that American forces be expelled from the country. This led to a confusing exchange whereby a letter was formally submitted to Iraqi authorities outlining US plans to withdraw from the country. However, the missive was immediately retracted and called a “mistake” by top US officials. Thereafter, President Donald Trump rejected a request by Iraq’s prime minister to draw up a road map for a US troop pull-out. Over the past month, Iraq has been a battleground seeing tit-for-tat military exchanges between the US and Iran. Tehran retaliated to Soleimani’s killing by launching coordinated ballistic missile attacks on two Iraqi bases housing US soldiers. Prior to that, the PMF repeatedly targeted American assets with rocket fire and staged an assault on the US Embassy in Baghdad.