What Happened: U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, who oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East, and his team met Iraqi officials in Baghdad on Feb. 17 to discuss the impact of the United States' imminent withdrawal of more than 2,000 troops from Syria, Reuters reported. The meetings were also expected to focus on the enduring fight against the Islamic State and the prospect of a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq.
Why It Matters: Despite pleas from political forces in both countries for the United States to leave Iraq, statements from U.S. and Iraqi leadership indicate that neither Baghdad nor Washington intends to disband the U.S. presence there due to the continued threat of the Islamic State. Votel recently reinforced this sentiment, saying he expects the number of U.S. forces to remain “more or less steady" in Iraq while the United States makes its exit from Syria.
Background: The U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, which was signed by then-U.S. President George W. Bush in 2008, stipulates that the United States is in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government. However, some Iraqi lawmakers have been pushing for new legislation that would allow them to legally expel the United States from their country.
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