The US is expected to announce the return of all US military personnel to Iraq on Friday, in a bid to quell tensions after the deadly terrorist attack on a military facility in Baghdad that left at least seven people dead.
The move comes as President Donald Trump announced he would extend the US-led war against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria by a year and also announced the start of a new phase of the war, with troops expected to move into Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.
Trump also announced an agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to send 2,000 US troops home from Iraq within the next three years, in an effort to end a year of fighting in Iraq.
The US has been conducting airstrikes against ISIS militants in Iraq for the past two years, but the move to begin a new offensive in Mosul is expected in response to the deadly attack on the Iraqi-owned oil company by suicide bombers.
According to a senior US official, the US will begin the move of US forces to Iraq within three months, and a further 2,500 soldiers would arrive in the coming months.
The official said the deployment was “not meant to be an all-out attack” but rather a series of steps to bring the war to a halt, as the US is unable to conduct combat operations on its own.
The initial plan was to deploy the US forces in a staggered way over a period of three years and then “take a pause” to train and deploy more troops.
The second phase of this plan is now being finalized, the official added.
Iraqi Prime Abadi was in Washington for talks with US President Donald J. Trump.
The two leaders discussed “the challenges of maintaining peace and stability in Iraq” and agreed to work together to resolve those challenges, the senior official said.
Abadi also expressed his gratitude to US President Joe Biden and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis for their efforts to stop ISIS in Iraq, and thanked the United States for its help in ending the fight against the terror group, the U.S. official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Abadi and Mattis are expected to discuss further US plans to help the Iraqi security forces fight ISIS.
“The United States is committed to defeating the Daesh terror group and to bringing peace and security to Iraq,” Mattis said at a joint press conference with Abadi on Friday.
“We look forward to continuing our work together as the coalition to defeat Daesh.”
The official added that the Iraqi prime minister also thanked US President Trump for his “tough talk” against ISIS.
“He said that we need to work to overcome the challenges facing Iraq,” the official said, adding that Abadi and Trump discussed a “series of steps” to bring to a conclusion a war against ISIS in the Middle East.
The announcement comes as Iraq’s government says the death toll in the terror attack on an oil refinery in the northern city of Kirkuk reached nearly 100, while the Islamic Republic of Iran has said it had killed more than 200 ISIS fighters.
Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters took control of Kirkuuk on Friday after the Iraqi army launched a counter-offensive against ISIS, with a curfew in effect for some parts of the country.
According to local officials, the first of the suicide bombers targeted the main oil refinery near Kirkuk’s Bashiqa district.
The refinery is located near the city’s northern border with Syria, and is used for refining crude oil.
Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim said at least 20 militants, including women and children, were killed in the attack.
While there is no confirmation of the number of casualties, some local officials say it was likely to be around 100.
Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from the Iraqi capital, said the suicide bomber who attacked the refinery had been wearing a suicide vest and wearing a white robe, which indicates that the attack was carried out by a militant group.
Baghdad and the US military were engaged in a war in Iraq since 2015, with the US leading a coalition of forces and Iraqi government backing the US in the fight.
A senior official from the US Central Command, which oversees the war in the country, told Al Jazeera on Saturday that the Pentagon was “working with the Iraqi government” to “bring the fighting to a grinding halt”.
“We have made it clear that this is an offensive war,” he said.
“It’s a battle against Daesh [ISIS].
We are working with the Iraqis and with the international coalition to bring this war to an end.
It’s a long-term effort, and it is not a short-term, quick-fix effort.
This is not about fighting ISIS, this is a long term battle to stop the advance of Daesh.”
The official said there was a need for the coalition forces to “stop this advance of ISIS in