Biden to host Iraqi PM al-Kadhimi at White House
July 26 meeting in Washington to take place amid discussions over US troop withdrawal, growing concerns about frequent attacks against the US targets in Iraq.
United States President Joe Biden will welcome Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to the White House on July 26, his office has announced.
The meeting will “highlight the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq”, the White House said in a statement on Friday.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden “also looks forward to strengthening bilateral cooperation with Iraq on political, economic and security issues to include joint efforts to ensure the enduring defeat” of ISIL (ISIS).
The meeting will take place against the backdrop of growing concerns among US officials about more frequent attacks against the US targets in Iraq and Syria.
There have been at least eight drone attacks targeting the US presence since Biden took office in January, as well as 17 rocket attacks.
The Biden administration has responded by twice targeting Iraqi armed groups operating inside Syria, including one close to the Iraq border.
Iraq has long been an arena for a bitter rivalry between the US and Iran despite their shared enmity towards ISIL.
Baghdad’s relationship with Washington has been complicated since the US assassinated the last year Iranian top General Qassem Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad International Airport. The drone strike on January 3, 2020, was ordered by then-President Donald Trump.
US troops in Iraq
In Washington, al-Kadhimi is expected to push for a concrete timetable of US troop withdrawal from Iraq. The implementation of their departure could take years.
On Thursday, al-Kadhimi and US envoy Brett McGurk discussed the issue in Baghdad.
Some 3,500 foreign soldiers are still on Iraqi territory, including 2,500 Americans, who have been posted to help fight ISIL since 2014.
Al-Kadhimi’s meeting with McGurk came a little more than a week after 14 rockets were fired at the Ain al-Assad airbase, which hosts US troops in western Iraq, and three others that landed near the US embassy in Baghdad.
They were the latest in a spate of attacks targeting US military and diplomatic facilities in Iraq. The attacks have been blamed on pro-Iranian armed groups within a state-sponsored paramilitary forces, called the Popular Mobilisation Forces.