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Change in ISIS Threat Means Evolution in Long-Term U.S.-Iraq Relationship

The Pentagon today underscored the mutual commitment by the United States and Iraq to strengthening the evolving security relationship between the two nations.

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said today that the two nations have, for a decade now, enjoyed a productive security relationship aimed at the shared goal of defeating the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorist group.

A civilian stands and speaks at a lectern adorned with a DOD seal.
Pentagon Briefing
Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh conducts a briefing at the Pentagon, Jan. 25, 2024.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alexander Kubitza, DOD
VIRIN: 240125-D-PM193-1045

The U.S. and Iraq will, in the coming days, begin discussions as part of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Military Commission, or HMC, to plan how the existing security relationship between the two partner nations is expected to evolve going forward.

Discussions taking place as part of the HMC are expected to shape the role of U.S. forces in Iraq and the defeat-ISIS mission. How the U.S. role in that mission will change depends on three key factors, Singh said. Those three factors include the current nature of the threat from ISIS, operational and environmental requirements and Iraqi security forces capability levels.

"Expert working groups of military and defense professionals will examine these three factors and advise the HMC on the most effective evolution of the D-ISIS coalition mission, ensuring that ISIS can never resurge, in consultation with coalition partners at all stages of the process," Singh said. 

The groundwork for the HMC discussions was laid last summer during the U.S.-Iraq Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue in Washington, D.C., Singh said. 

"During that August 2023 meeting, the U.S. and Iraq committed to start the HMC to discuss the coalition's mission to defeat ISIS," she said. 


The U.S. currently has a military presence in Iraq as part of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve. The CJTF OIR mission is to advise, assist and enable partnered forces in the defeat of ISIS within designated areas of Iraq and Syria. Inside Iraq, the U.S. works in partnership with both the Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish security forces to carry out that mission. 

Discussions on how that mission may evolve, Singh said, are relevant now because after 10 years the threat posed by ISIS may also be different. That's something the HMC will investigate as part of its discussions she said. 

"We want to make sure that the threat that we saw 10 years ago is not the same threat that we face today, which is why we have entered into this HMC working group to address what the future, what the partnership, what the bilateral relationship looks like," she said. "This is about the future and making sure that Iraq is set up for success in defending its own national security and sovereignty, and how the U.S. can support Iraq in doing that." 

One thing Singh said the HMC meetings will not involve is U.S. "withdrawal" from Iraq. 

"Let me be clear, the HMC meeting is not a negotiation about the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq," Singh said. "The United States and the coalition are in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government to fight ISIS. Our Iraqi partners have assured us of their commitment towards working together to shape this future on U.S. military presence and the enduring defeat of ISIS. The HMC will enable the transition to an enduring bilateral security partnership between the U.S. and Iraq, building on the successes of the D-ISIS campaign in partnership with the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve." 

Singh said the U.S. and Iraq have for a decade now worked together in a productive and successful partnership that has put U.S. military and coalition forces alongside ISF and KSF in a mutual effort to eliminate the destructive influence of ISIS. While that partnership is expected to evolve going forward, neither nation wants to see it come to an end.

"The start of the HMC process reflects the evolving U.S.-Iraq bilateral relationship, and it underscores our commitment to deepen our security cooperation to advance stability within Iraq and the region," Singh said.

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