A commission made up of officials from the U.S. and Iraq will begin holding high-level talks in the coming days designed to advance the nations’ shared goal of building an enduring security partnership, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III announced today.

The U.S.-Iraq Higher Military Commission aims to build upon joint commitments to regional security and Iraqi sovereignty outlined during the U.S.-Iraq Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue held last year in Washington.  

Previous discussions have focused on transitioning the U.S.-led mission by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to a timeline that reflects the threat posed by the terrorist group, operational requirements and the Iraqi security forces’ capabilities, Austin said. 

During the upcoming meetings, military and defense experts will focus on the evolution of Iraq’s campaign to defeat ISIS. 

“The United States and Iraq have enjoyed a deep and productive partnership on security matters in the 10 years since the Iraqi government invited the United States and the coalition to fight ISIS, including the seven years since the territorial defeat of ISIS in Iraq,” Austin said in a statement announcing the commencement of the forum. 

The U.S. and Iraq will start U.S.-Iraq Higher Military Commission working group meetings in the coming days, building upon the U.S.-Iraq Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue and reflecting our commitment to deepen security cooperation to advance stability in Iraq & the region.…

— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) January 25, 2024

He added that the discussions reflect the evolving U.S.-Iraq relationship outlined in the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement between the two nations and “underscores our commitment to deepen our security cooperation to advance stability within Iraq and the region.” 

The secretary said the upcoming discussions are guided by a shared commitment to determine the most effective evolution of the mission to defeat ISIS, while ensuring that ISIS can never resurge.  

In previewing the upcoming discussions, senior officials with the Defense and State departments further underscored the strength of the U.S.-Iraq relationship and the key role it has played in the mission to defeat ISIS.  

“The partnership between CJTF OIR and the [Iraqi Security Forces] has been a decisive factor in the defeat of ISIS,” a senior defense official said. “The Iraqi Security Forces, the ISF, have been in the lead during the last several years of the campaign to defeat ISIS with CJTF OIR in support to advise, assist and enable our partner forces.” 

The officials said over the past decade, ISIS, which once attracted tens of thousands of fighters across the region, has been significantly reduced in terms of size and capability.  

“The ISF have made tremendous progress through cooperation with CJTF OIR,” the official added. “Ten years after the Iraqi government invited the United States and the rest of the coalition to defeat ISIS, and seven years after our collective territorial defeat of ISIS in Iraq, we see a need to transition to a normal bilateral security cooperation relationship.” 

The official emphasized that the discussions are not a negotiation about the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. 

“The United States and the coalition are in Iraq at the invitation of their of the Iraqi government to fight ISIS,” the official said. “Our Iraqi partners have assured us of their commitment toward working together to shape this future US military presence and ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS.  

“Both nations remain committed to security cooperation, and our shared interest in regional stability,” the official added. “The United States and Iraq will continue to work together to shape future US military presence and ensure an Iraqi lead enduring defeat of ISIS.”

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