BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Joint military operations with the US-led coalition to counter the Islamic State extremist group have resumed after a nearly three-week pause, an Iraqi military statement said Thursday.
The pause came amid heightened tensions after a Washington-led airstrike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad.
The statement said joint operations had resumed in light of the continued threat posed by IS. Militants belonging to the group are holed up in parts of northern Iraq.
The statement also implied that Baghdad was standing by intentions to reorganize Iraq’s military relationship with the US.
“In light of continued activities by the terrorist group (IS) in many areas of Iraq and for the purpose of making use of the remaining time of the international coalition before organizing a new relationship … it was decided to carry out joint actions,” the statement said.
The statement was issued by the office of the armed forces’ commander in chief. As prime minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi assumes that role.
The coalition paused operations in support of Iraqi forces in the fight against IS militants on January 5 after a US airstrike killed Iran’s elite Quds Force leader Gen. Qassem Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on Iraq soil, sparking outrage among Iraqi officials.
Lawmakers passed a resolution to oust foreign troops from Iraq after the US strike. The coalition refocused on protecting military personnel amid fears of an Iranian counter-attack.
Despite signs of de-escalation after Iran retaliated with a barrage of missiles on two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S troops that caused no fatalities, outgoing Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi has been vocal that American troops should withdraw and has said steps are being taken to move the process forward.
The United States has about 5,000 troops in Iraq to train and advise Iraqi security forces in their fight against extremist groups like the Islamic State.
The Pentagon on Thursday asked Iraq for permission to put Patriot missile systems at bases hosting US troops to improve defenses against attacks like the January 8 Iranian missile strike that caused brain injuries to more than 50 US troops.