Will the U.S. maintain a military presence in the Iraq indefinitely?
According to U.S. Central Command head Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, a small number of U.S. troops will stay in Iraq in the near future.
“I believe that going forward, they’re going to want us to be with them,” McKenzie told reporters on July 7 after meeting with Iraq’s new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, per a report from The Associated Press.
“I don’t sense there’s a mood right now for us to depart precipitously. And I’m pretty confident of that.”
McKenzie’s comments are in line with those he made in June, when he claimed that the Iraqi government will want to keep U.S. and coalition forces stationed in the country.
The U.S. government originally invaded Iraq in 2003 and left in 2011. The country ended up returning in 2014 to stem the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Currently, there are about 5,200 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq to train Iraqi forces and execute counterterrorism missions.
Relations between Iraq and the U.S. have become strained since 2019 when the country found itself caught in between the U.S.-Iran tensions.
After an American drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani near the Baghdad airport, the Iraqi parliament passed a nonbinding resolution that demanded American troops to withdraw from the country.
Iran retaliated to the death of Soleimani by launching missile strikes on al-Asad air base in Iraq. The strikes only brought about traumatic brain injuries to more than 100 U.S. troops.
Back in March, the United States blamed an Iranian-backed militia for launching rocket attacks that killed two U.S. troops and a British service member at Iraq’s Camp Taji base.
U.S.-Iraq talks that are set to take place in July are expected to include discussions about the future amount of U.S. troops in Iraq in addition to ISIS containment and repeated bouts of militia violence.
Although al-Kadhimi has promised to protect American troops and facilities from militia attacks, McKenzie observed that the new president is “negotiating a land mine now” with his government and finds himself “in a very difficult position.”
“Certainly we need some foreign presence in Iraq,” McKenzie declared. “I don’t know that it needs to be as big as it is now, because ultimately that’s going to be a political, not a military, decision. But I think the Iraqis know, welcome and value what we do for them now.”
From the looks of it, the U.S. might be in the Middle East indefinitely.
This is clearly going against President Trump’s America First agenda. If Trump is serious about following through with his campaign promises, he should give the generals the cold shoulder and withdraw troops immediately.