The American forces in Iraq additionally help about 900 U.S. troops in neighboring Syria, the place the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces proceed to hold out floor operations towards the Islamic State within the nation’s northeast. If the US have been to withdraw from Iraq, it will make supporting the Syria mission far more tough.
Many Biden administration officers are additionally haunted by the failed withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. The US was pulled again in three years later after James Foley, an American journalist, was beheaded by the Islamic State in August 2014 for a propaganda video and the group seized the northern third of the nation.
As head of American forces in Iraq, Common Lloyd J. Austin III oversaw the 2011 withdrawal mission. He now serves as Mr. Biden’s protection secretary. Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on International Relations, mentioned a reluctance to exit Iraq altogether “is perhaps a hangover from the Obama choice to depart solely to must re-enter.”
And whereas American officers insist they aren’t retaining troops in Iraq to struggle Iran or Iran-backed militias, the army presence there additionally permits the US to watch Iran extra intently. The drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a strong Iranian commander, as an example, was launched from Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq.
“U.S. troops in Iraq assist in a political sense stability or comprise Iran, which is a critical regional risk,” mentioned James F. Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
The incentives to remain, mixed with the dearth of political strain at house to depart, made Mr. Biden’s announcement on Monday principally a set piece of diplomatic theater that did little greater than formalize the present state of play.
“The target of either side is for nothing to alter and to maintain about 2,500 U.S. troops there that may do issues they’re already doing,” mentioned Sarhang Hamasaeed, the director of Center East applications at the US Institute of Peace. “That’s supporting Iraqi safety forces, however not interact in fight.”