US role in Iraq five years since mil­i­tary with­drawal

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BAGH­DAD: Five years since the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary com­pleted its with­drawal from Iraq, US forces are once again play­ing a ma­jor role in the coun­try as part of the war against the Is­lamic State ji­hadist group.

Here a three key ques­tions on the fifth an­niver­sary of US troops leav­ing Iraq. Why did US forces leave in 2011?

Af­ter a nearly nine-year pres­ence, ne­go­ti­a­tions on the United States leav­ing a resid­ual train­ing force in Iraq af­ter the end of 2011 broke down over the is­sue of Amer­i­can forces hav­ing le­gal im­mu­nity from Iraqi pros­e­cu­tion, which Wash­ing­ton de­manded and Bagh­dad was re­luc­tant to pro­vide.

The US then an­nounced that Amer­i­can forces would de­part, an op­er­a­tion that was com­pleted on De­cem­ber 18, 2011 when the last con­voy of ar­mored ve­hi­cles crossed into neigh­bor­ing Kuwait.

The with­drawal brought po­lit­i­cal ben­e­fits to both Wash­ing­ton and Bagh­dad: US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama wanted to end the Iraq war, which he had op­posed, and the with­drawal also al­lowed then-premier Nuri al-Ma­liki’s gov­ern­ment to claim credit for end­ing the un­pop­u­lar Amer­i­can pres­ence in the coun­try.

Some Amer­i­can mil­i­tary per­son­nel and con­trac­tors did how­ever re­main in Iraq un­der US em­bassy au­thor­ity as part of the Of­fice of Se­cu­rity Co­op­er­a­tion - Iraq, which worked on train­ing the coun­try’s forces and help­ing it field Amer­i­can mil­i­tary equip­ment.

What went wrong?

Prior to the with­drawal, Amer­i­can of­fi­cials re­peat­edly stated that Iraqi forces were ready to han­dle in­ter­nal se­cu­rity, but un­rest wors­ened con­sid­er­ably in the years af­ter their de­par­ture, cul­mi­nat­ing in the dis­as­trous IS of­fen­sive in 2014.

One of the main rea­sons for the ris­ing vi­o­lence was wide­spread anger among Iraq’s Sunni Arab mi­nor­ity, mem­bers of which com­plained of be­ing marginal­ized and tar­geted by the Shi­ite-led gov­ern­ment.

This anger-which was stoked by mil­i­tary raids and de­ten­tions in Sunni ar­eas, ef­forts to ar­rest sev­eral prom­i­nent Sunni politi­cians, and a some­times heavy-handed re­sponse to anti-gov­ern­ment protests-in­creased sym­pa­thy for mil­i­tant groups and made it eas­ier for them to op­er­ate.

Ac­cord­ing to the US, Iraqi forces did not carry out the nec­es­sary train­ing to main­tain their readi­ness af­ter Amer­i­can forces left-a view cor­rob­o­rated in an Iraqi par­lia­men­tary re­port on causes of the fall of sec­ond city Mo­sul to IS.

The civil war in neigh­bor­ing Syria, which broke out in 2011, also pro­vided a key safe haven for ji­hadists to re­group, ex­pand their ranks, train, and gain com­bat ex­pe­ri­ence.

What are US forces do­ing in Iraq now?

Amer­i­can mil­i­tary forces are car­ry­ing out air and ar­tillery strikes against IS in Iraq as part of a US-led coali­tion against the ji­hadists, and have pro­vided train­ing, ad­vice and other as­sis­tance to Bagh­dad’s forces.

Amer­i­can spe­cial forces per­son­nel have also fought IS on the ground, and three mem­bers of the US mil­i­tary have been killed in the coun­try. There are about 5,000 Amer­i­can mil­i­tary per­son­nel in Iraq, ac­cord­ing to the coali­tion.

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