Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines

June 25, 2017 Disclaimer: Please read.
x

Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.

Five GOP Senators Now Oppose the Health Care Bill as Written
What’s Next for the Bill Cosby Sex-Assault Case?
Truthdig Bazaar more items
Report
Email this item Print this item

The Number of U.S. Troops in Iraq Is Approaching 6,000 (Video)

Posted on Sep 25, 2016

By Juan Cole / Informed Comment

The U.S. plans to send another 500 troops to Iraq to help with the massive Mosul campaign, which will involve the Iraqi army and its allies, the Kurdistan paramilitary Peshmerga, hard line Shiite militias, and Sunni Arab tribal levies.  US troops will not engage in war-fighting at the front, but will help call in air strikes on Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) targets and provide tactical advice and training.  Some of them are stationed at a newly recaptured airbase, Qayara, just south of Mosul.

Square, Story page, 2nd paragraph, mobile
The exact number of US troops in Iraq is hard to calculate, since units are transferred in and out with some frequency, but the number is heading for 6,000.  All US troops had been withdrawn from the country at the end of 2011 because the Iraqi parliament would not grant them immunity from prosecution if they killed Iraqi civilians in the course of carrying out joint operations with the Iraqi Army. 

After the fall of 40% of Iraq to Daesh in 2014, all of a sudden the Baghdad political elite had no trouble at all with the return of US troops to the country and I can only imagine that iron clad guarantees have been given behind the scenes that US troops have de facto legal immunity or extraterritoriality.  (The hard line Shiite militias such as Muqtada al-Sadr’s Peace Brigades and the League of the Holy Family have in fact menaced US troops orally, but these threats appear to be empty.  Ironically, the US has occasionally given them air support in the fight against Daesh, as at Amerili two years ago).

The question is when US troops can again leave Iraq?  Will it be after the fall of Mosul?  Or will Iraq need years of “stabilization” in the aftermath, according to Washington?  (This kind of talk is so ironic since the US destabilized Iraq in the first place).  If we look over at the 15-year war in Afghanistan, where there is no prospect of victory and where there are still thousands of US troops (some of them still do some war-fighting from time to time), it might be an omen for what we can expect in Iraq.

The only difference is that I think Iran will be pretty eager to see US troops leave after Daesh is defeated (at the moment Iran and the US are de facto allies in Iraq), and it has many levers of power with the Shiite elite in the Iraqi government.

Square, Site wide, Desktop
Square, Site wide, Mobile
US tactical cooperation with Iran and the Shiite militias could have been turned into a diplomatic deepening, but apparently it is just too embarrassing for Washington and Tehran to admit.  And so, likely, down the line the US will get pulled right back into Iraq, because it refuses to recognize the real power dynamics there at the level of policy rather than just of tactics.


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Join the conversation

Load Comments
Right Top, Site wide - Care2
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide

Like Truthdig on Facebook