US dismisses Iraq request to work on a troop withdrawal plan

War-weary Iraqis want US and Iran to fight elsewhere

BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraq’s caretaker prime minister has asked Washington to start working out a road map for an American troop withdrawal.

But the U.S. State Department bluntly rejected the request, saying the two sides should instead talk about how to “recommit” to their partnership.

The request came when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi on Thursday night.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks on human rights in Iran at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. In a telephone call between Abdul-Mahdi and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday night, the Iraqi PM insisted on troop withdrawal.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks on human rights in Iran at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. In a telephone call between Abdul-Mahdi and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday night, the Iraqi PM insisted on troop withdrawal. (Source: AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The request from Abdul-Mahdi pointed to his determination to push ahead with demands for U.S. troops to leave Iraq after by last week’s American strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Pompeo said Washington would continue its mission to help train Iraqi security forces and counter the Islamic State group.

Meanwhile, thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in Baghdad and southern Iraq. Many of them want both Iran and America to leave Iraq, reflecting anger and frustration over their trading blows on Iraqi soil.

The comments indicated the Iraqi premier intends to push ahead with calls for the American forces to go despite recent moves to de-escalate tensions between Iran and the United States.

Iraq’s most powerful religious leader called on rival political parties to unite, saying discord between them had given rise to and risked perpetuating the crisis.

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