Xinhua News Agency, Washington, July 26 (International Observation) Changing roles, changing the soup and not changing the medicine, the US military continues to “depend on” in Iraq
Xinhua News Agency reporter Liu Pinran
US President Biden met with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Kadimi at the White House on the afternoon of the 26th. According to the US-Iran joint statement released by the US State Department that day, the two sides decided that the security relationship between the two countries will completely transition to training, advice, assistance, and intelligence sharing. By December 31 this year, there will be no US military in Iraq to undertake combat missions.
Analysts pointed out that the absence of US troops to undertake combat missions does not mean that US troops are completely withdrawn. The decisions of the two sides are more symbolic, and the US will not easily give up maintaining a military presence in Iraq.
Biden told the media before the meeting that the US military will continue to undertake the duties of training, assisting the Iraqi government forces and responding to the extremist organization “Islamic State”, but the US military in Iraq will end its combat mission by the end of this year.
According to U.S. media quoting U.S. officials, the decision of the two parties is only to redefine the responsibilities of the U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and will not result in a significant reduction in the number of U.S. troops stationed in Iraq. White House Press Secretary Psaki also avoided specific changes in the number of US troops in Iraq at a regular press conference that day.
The United States launched the Iraq War in 2003 and withdrew its troops from Iraq at the end of 2011, leaving only a small number of troops stationed. The “Islamic State” seized large areas of western and northern Iraq in 2014. The US army subsequently increased its troops in Iraq, but its authority was limited to combating the “Islamic State” and providing support and training for the Iraqi government forces. Currently, there are about 2,500 US troops stationed in Iraq.
On January 3, 2020, the US military launched an air strike in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, killing Soleimani, commander of the “Quds Brigade” under the Islamic Revolutionary Guard of Iran, and Muhan, deputy commander of the “People’s Mobilization Organization”, an Iraqi Shiite militia. Diss et al. Two days later, the Iraqi National Assembly passed a resolution calling for an end to the presence of foreign troops in Iraq.
The United States and Iraq stated in the joint statement of the Strategic Dialogue in April this year that in view of the improved capabilities of Iraq’s security forces, the mission of the US and coalition forces in Iraq will focus on providing training and consulting. Combat forces can leave Iraq, but the two sides did not specify the specifics at the time. schedule.
US media and analysts believe that the decision to end the combat mission of the US military in Iraq at the end of the year has limited practical significance. A US official stated that no US soldier in Iraq has participated in combat missions in Iraq for more than a year. Their daily mission is to provide training and support for the Iraqi government forces.
Najib Jubri, a law professor at the University of Iraq, pointed out that the so-called US military in Iraq will end combat missions is nothing more than a “word game.”
Analysts pointed out that after the US military “fixed” Soleimani early last year, Iraqi Shiite militias repeatedly attacked US targets in the country, threatening US interests. At the same time, the United States also pointed out that Iraq’s Shiite militias are supported by Iran, and naturally it will not tolerate Iran’s presence in Iraq. All these have prompted the United States to find ways to maintain a military presence in Iraq.
Jubri said that considering Iraq’s strategic position in military and energy, the true withdrawal of the United States will only greatly weaken Washington’s influence in the Middle East. The US government will never give up the strategic benefits it has gained in Iraq over the years. The US military in Iraq will no longer participate in combat missions, but will continue to be stationed in Iraq as trainers and military advisers. On the one hand, it can calm the anti-US pressure in Iraq, and on the other hand, it can also safeguard the long-term interests and strategic layout of the United States in the Middle East.
At the same time, the US’s ability to reach an agreement with Iraq this time to continue to “rely” in Iraq is also taking advantage of the current dilemma of the Iraqi government. As the parliamentary elections in October approach, the Iraqi government is facing heavy pressure. The Shiite political parties and Shiite militias that dominate the parliament strongly demand the United States to withdraw its troops. However, the Iraqi government also needs US support in terms of counter-terrorism, economy, and reconstruction. Before his visit to the United States, Kadimi told the US media that Iraq does not need foreign combat troops to be stationed, but he hopes that the US military in Iraq can support the Iraqi government through training and security cooperation. Ou Hanlong, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in the United States, said that the decision to change the role of the US military in Iraq was an “intelligent approach.”
But experts also expressed doubts about whether the goals of the US can be achieved. James Jeffrey, the former US ambassador to Iraq, stated that Iraq’s Shiite forces have never distinguished US troops by the nature of their missions, and they hope that all US troops will withdraw. (Participating reporter: Zhang Miao) (End)