Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is reported to be in talks with the Trump administration to keep American troops in Iraq after the fight against Islamic State in the country is over.
Citing U.S. and Iraqi officials, The Associated Press reports that talks are ongoing, but the agreement could conclude that, in contrast to the U.S. withdrawal in 2011, a longer-term presence of U.S. troops is needed to ensure security in Iraq.
The decision to withdraw U.S. combat forces was implemented by former President Barack Obama after Iraqi and U.S. negotiators could not agree on details for extending an immunity agreement covering U.S. forces and U.S. contractors.
"So perhaps we shouldn’t have gone in, and certainly we shouldn’t have left," Trump said in March during a White House meeting with Iraq's prime minister. "We should never ever have left, and the vacuum was created."
Iraqi forces have been battling Islamic State militants on the ground with the backing of airstrikes from a U.S.-led coalition. The major focus of that campaign is the offensive to retake the city of Mosul from IS militants, who swept into the city in mid-2014.
Talks on keeping U.S. forces in Iraq after the fight against IS involve U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Iraqi officials over "what the long-term U.S. presence would look like,'' a U.S. official told AP, adding that discussions were in early stages and "nothing has been finalized.''
Trump administration officials have not yet commented publicly on the AP report.
At the height of the Iraq war, more than 170,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq. Currently, there are several thousand American troops in the country.