Iraq’s caretaker prime minister privately does not want US troops to withdraw, several sources familiar with the situation told Al-Monitor, though Adel Abdul Mahdi publicly backed a recent parliamentary vote that urged the Donald Trump administration to exit the war-torn country.
Despite calling on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to send an American delegation to Iraq to negotiate the withdrawal of US troops in a readout of a Friday call, Abdul Mahdi is trying to find a way to keep an American presence in the country while attempting to placate Iran-backed militia leaders who want to force 5,200 US troops out, a source familiar with the situation on the ground said.
Abdul Mahdi is attempting to “save face,” a former senior administration official told Al-Monitor. “He doesn’t want us to leave.” By demanding a US exit, the former official said, Abdul Mahdi is using “[the] only leverage he has.”
In a heated response to Abdul Mahdi’s statement on Friday, the State Department rejected the caretaker leader’s request for a plan for US troops to exit. “Any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.