More than 17 years after the US invaded Iraq, Washington now claims it plans to withdraw troops and end its permanent military presence—as long as the Iraqi government continues to follow its demands…
It has been more than 17 years since the US first invaded Iraq, and they now appear more hopeful than ever that US troops could finally leave the country.
In a joint statement, the US and Iraq said, “The two countries recognized that in light of significant progress towards eliminating the ISIS threat, over the coming months the U.S. would continue reducing forces from Iraq and discuss with the Government of Iraq the status of remaining forces as both countries turn their focus towards developing a bilateral security relationship based on strong mutual interests.”
Notably, the statement goes on to say that the US is not seeking “a permanent military presence in Iraq,” which is what was previously the case with a 2008 agreement under the Obama Administration.
In recent years, the US has claimed its purpose for keeping troops in Iraq was to defeat ISIS—the group that rose to power after the US had already been occupying the country for more than a decade.
There are still concerns about a possible resurgence of ISIS, and reports claim the group has been ramping up attacks in rural parts of Iraq over the last year.
They went on to state that “Both the frequency and character of the attacks have been steadily increasing, and there is data that suggests the Islamic State is moving skilled fighters to the area from Syria to stoke a new insurgency.”
Reports have also noted that they tend to see support for ISIS rise when citizens are frustrated with the Iraqi government. But at the same time, that government has the full support of the US. So, if it changes to meet the demands of the people, then there is a chance that the US could send in more troops.
There is still an ongoing conflict with the Kurds, who the US sees as some of their most helpful allies in the fight against ISIS—but who Turkey has labeled as terrorists.
Turkey announced that it launched a new bombing campaign on Monday, in which it struck more than 80 Kurdish targets in northern Iraq. Turkey claims it is responding to attacks on its army bases. But Iraq has responded by calling the bombings “provocative,” and claiming they actually targeted a refugee camp.
There are also concerns for relations with Iran, because the US has repeatedly accused Iran of having too much influence on the Iraqi government, and when the US killed Iran’s top military general by airstrike earlier this year, they did so in Iraq, and it sparked mass protests.
There are still questions about how much influence the US itself plans to have moving forward, and whether an end to US troops would also mean an end to US airstrikes in the country.