The US and Iraq in June affirmed their commitment to reducing American troops in the country in the coming months
American soldiers talk to Iraqi men while on patrol in Baquba.
Hidayatullah.com—The US military announced Wednesday it would reduce its presence in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,000 troops this month, inaugurating a long-expected move. The head of US Central Command said his party would continue to work to reduce the number of troops in the Country of 1001 Malam.
“We are continuing to develop our partner capacity program which enables Iraqi forces and enables us to reduce our footprint in Iraq,” Marine General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said during a visit to Iraq. Al Jazeera (10/09/2020).
The US and Iraq in June affirmed their commitment to reducing American troops in the country in the coming months, without Washington’s plans to maintain a permanent base or a permanent military presence. The US has about 5,200 troops deployed in Iraq to fight the armed group DAESH. Officials in the US-led coalition say Iraqi forces are now largely capable of handling ISIS remnants on their own.
Late Tuesday, a senior Trump administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters on the Air Force One plane that such an announcement was coming and that an announcement of the withdrawal of additional troops from Afghanistan could also be expected in the coming days.
The US invaded Iraq in 2003 and left in 2011, but returned in 2014 after ISIS took control of much of the country. “In recognition of the great progress Iraqi forces have made and in consultation and coordination with the Iraqi government and our coalition partners, the United States has decided to reduce our troop presence in Iraq from around 5,200 to 3,000 troops during September,” McKenzie said, according to excerpt from his remarks given by his office.
The remaining US troops will continue to advise and assist Iraqi security forces as they seek to root out any remaining ISIL fighters, said McKenzie. “The US decision is a clear demonstration of our continuing commitment to the ultimate goal, namely the Iraqi security forces that are able to prevent the rise of ISIS and secure Iraqi sovereignty without external assistance,” said McKenzie. The journey is difficult, the sacrifices are great, but the progress is significant, “he continued.
In 2016, Trump said he would end the US “endless war.” Unfortunately US troops remain in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, albeit in smaller numbers.
“We are preventing America from a new war and bringing our troops home, we are taking them home from all these faraway places,” Trump said in his campaign speech. “We’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars, and what do we get out of it?”
Last month, while meeting with the Iraqi prime minister, Trump again promised to withdraw US troops who were still in Iraq. The Iraqi parliament earlier this year unanimously agreed to make a withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq, and the US and other coalition forces have left as part of the withdrawal.
Trump’s meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi comes amid a renewed surge in tensions between Washington and Tehran after Washington said it would seek to restore all previously suspended US sanctions against neighboring Iran at the United Nations. Iraq and Iran have close political, economic and military ties.
Fears of an open conflict between the US and Iran grew in January after an American drone strike near Baghdad airport killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Angry Iraqi legislators, pushed by Shiite political factions, passed a non-binding resolution to remove all US-led coalition troops from the country. In response to Soleimani’s killing, Iran, on January 8, launched a ballistic missile attack on al-Asad air base in Iraq, resulting in traumatic brain injury to more than 100 American soldiers.
Trump has also gone to great lengths to pull back US troops from Afghanistan, where their number has risen to more than 12,000 under his watch to suppress the Taliban and ISIS. The number dropped to around 8,600 in July following a peace agreement with the Taliban in February and McKenzie said they could all leave in May 2021 if the Taliban and the Afghan government reached a peace agreement.
But Trump’s pressure on the Pentagon to disengage more rapidly in the Middle East and Afghanistan has strained relations between the White House and the US defense chief. Former defense minister James Mattis quit in December 2018 after Trump declared all US troops would leave Syria.
Under Mattis’ successor, Mark Esper, the Pentagon remained wary of a hasty withdrawal, cautious that the Taliban would overwhelm Afghan government forces if the US withdrew too quickly. It also takes into account Iranian influence in Iraq and the Middle East, which could grow if American forces vacate the region. The Middle East has been in turmoil since the US intervened in the region. *