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U.S. commander confident Iraq will ask American forces to stay as it confronts militias​​​​​​​

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Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, watches flight operations on board the USS Harry S. Truman during a trip to the region earlier this year. He visited Iraq again this week.
Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, watches flight operations on board the USS Harry S. Truman during a trip to the region earlier this year. He visited Iraq again this week. (Lolita Baldor/AP)
July 7, 2020 at 6:34 p.m. EDT

Iraq’s new leader has taken significant steps to confront Iranian-linked militias that have targeted American troops, a top U.S. military official said Tuesday, adding that the United States must remain patient as Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi challenges groups with formidable military and political clout.


Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., who heads U.S. Central Command, commended Kadhimi for ordering a late June raid on a militia group the Pentagon has accused of launching repeated rocket attacks on American personnel in Iraq.

The unusual move against Kataib Hezbollah — which prompted an outcry from its leaders and the release of detained militiamen — illustrated the challenges that Kadhimi faces as he seeks to rein in militias without upsetting the fragile balance between Iraq’s two chief foreign backers, Washington and Tehran.


“He’s negotiating a land mine now. I think we need to help him,” McKenzie said after meeting with Kadhimi during a visit to Baghdad. “And he’s just got to kind of find his way, which means we’re going to have less-than-perfect solutions, which is nothing new in Iraq. But. . . I’m a glass-half-full guy when I look at the prime minister and what he’s doing.”

McKenzie’s visit with Kadhimi, a former intelligence chief who became premier in May, comes as the Trump administration conducts talks with Iraqi leaders aimed in part at defining the future of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Speaking to reporters by phone after leaving Iraq, McKenzie voiced confidence the Iraqi government would ask U.S. forces to stay in the country despite calls for a withdrawal earlier this year from Iraqi lawmakers angered by Washington’s decision to launch an airstrike in Baghdad that killed Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian military commander, along with a senior Iraqi militia figure.


While both governments affirmed last month that American forces would not seek permanent bases in Iraq, U.S. military officials say some sort of continued presence is necessary given the ongoing threat from Islamic State militants. More than 5,000 U.S. troops are currently in Iraq.

The U.S. military presence acts as a deterrent to Iran’s influence there, the Trump administration says, but U.S. forces have been subject to repeated rocket and artillery attacks that officials attribute to Kataib Hezbollah and other militias.

McKenzie declined to say how many troops he believed would be needed, saying it would be up to civilian leaders. While President Trump has repeatedly stated his desire to remove troops from Syria and Afghanistan, he has spoken less frequently about Iraq.


Mick Mulroy, who served as a top Pentagon official for the Middle East earlier in the Trump administration, said a continued troop presence would also be beneficial “to the continuing development of the Iraqi military to defend itself against the malign activities of Iran.”


“Many of these militias look out for the interests of Iran over that of their own country,” said Mulroy, who now serves as a national security analyst for ABC News.

McKenzie also addressed, for the first time in public, intelligence reports about an alleged Russian program to pay Taliban-linked militants bounties to attack U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

While White House officials have downplayed the reports, saying they were not seen as conclusive enough to warrant taking action against Russia in response, other officials have said the intelligence was deemed credible and that the bounties may have resulted in American deaths. Lawmakers have been clamoring for more information.


McKenzie said he was very familiar with the intelligence but was “not convinced” that Russian payments to Taliban-linked figures resulted in American deaths.


“I found it very worrisome. I just didn’t find that there was a causative link there,” he said. It was proven enough to worry me. It wasn’t proved enough that I would take it to a court of law.

“That’s often true in battlefield intelligence. You see a lot of indicators. Many of them are troubling; many of them you act on. But in this case, there wasn’t enough there. . . . I just didn’t see enough there to tell me that the circuit was closed in that regard.”

The general said he had asked intelligence officials to continue to “dig on it,” which they are doing.


McKenzie said the reporting had not changed the military’s posture in Afghanistan.

“We take extreme force protection measures all the time in Afghanistan because, whether the Russians are paying the Taliban or not, over the past several years the Taliban have done their level best to carry out operations against us. So nothing has practically changed on the ground in terms of force protection,” he said.

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3 hours ago, Spartakus said:

Under no circumstances should we leave, otherwise Maliki with his militia are waiting to take over. This is a no brainier!


Agreed . . . however this is Iraq and as we know, anything is possible.


I trust common sense will rule the day and the anti-USA faction will be marginalized if not permanently banished from the country.

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Editing Date: 7/8/208 12:26 • 75 times read
After his visit to Baghdad .. McKinsey: Al-Kazemi's government will ask us to stay in Iraq
A senior American military official announced that America needs the help of the new Iraqi government, hinting that there is an Iraqi decision expected for the American forces to stay in Iraq to help it confront ISIS, according to the Washington Post.
"He (Al-Kazemi) has taken important steps to confront the Iran-related militias that have targeted American forces," the newspaper quoted General Kenneth McKinsey as saying, adding that the United States must remain patient while Al-Kazemi challenges groups with massive military and political influence.
Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKinsey Jr., who heads the US Central Command, commended Al-Kazemi for ordering a raid in late June on a crowd headquarters.
"He is now negotiating a landmine, indicating that the American forces will remain," McKinsey said, noting that after meeting Al-Kazemi during a visit to Baghdad: "I think we need his help. And he just has to find his way somewhat, which means we will get less than ideal solutions, which are not new in Iraq. ”
Speaking to reporters on the phone after leaving Iraq, McKinsey expressed confidence that the Iraqi government will ask American forces to remain in the country despite the parliament’s decision to withdraw all foreign forces
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US Central Command: Iraqis want America to stay by their side



Baghdad / National News Center -
The commander of the US Central Command, Gen. Kenneth McKinsey, confirmed after a meeting with Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi that the Iraqis want America to stay with them.

After meeting Al-Kazemi, McKinsey came out, saying, "Iraq has no urgent desire for the American forces to leave, and I am convinced that the Iraqis want us to stay."

He added, that Al-Kazemi “is walking in a minefield, I think we should help him, and he is still trying to find the most appropriate way, which may mean that we will reach less than optimal solutions, which is not new regarding Iraq, but I consider myself an optimistic person when I look.” To the prime minister and to what he does. ”

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