Saturday, July 8, 2017

Defense Secretary Mattis wants to leave US troops in Iraq after Islamic State is defeated

For some time now U.S. officials have said that even though the end of the war against the Islamic State may be in sight, U.S. troops should stay in Iraq.

In recent remarks by Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend he said that he hoped that the city of Mosul would be liberated from Islamic State control before the next U.S. troop rotation, but that U.S. troops should stay. Townsend insisted that the troops would need to stay long after the war against the IS in Iraq was over in order to arm and train Iraq's military. This view fits in with what Pentagon officials have claimed, that the rise of IS between the end of U.S. occupation in 2011 and 2014 when some U.S. troops and air support returned was due to the lack of U.S. ground troops in Iraq in spite of the fact that the U.S. had trained the Iraqi military and had a presence in Iraq for years. Townsend said that since mid-October last year the Iraqi army had had lost more than one thousand troops with about another 5,000 wounded. Only two U.S. soldiers had been killed during the same period. Townsend was addressing Fort Bragg troops.
Earlier, on March 22, , Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State also announced that U.S. troops would remain in Iraq to avert the possible resurgence of another terrorist organization saying: "The military power of the coalition will remain where this fraudulent caliphate has existed in order to set the conditions for a full recovery from the tyranny of ISIS." However Tillerson stressed that the troops would be engaged in what he called "stabilization" and "normalization" rather than "nation-building'. Tillerson continued:"Local leaders and local governments will take on the process of restoring their communities in the wake of ISIS with our support.The development of a rejuvenated civil society in these places will lead to a disenfranchisement of ISIS and the emergence of stability and peace where there was once chaos and suffering. But none of this will happen automatically. We all need to support this effort."
Both Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and the Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Joseph Dunford also told Congress in March that a residual group of U.S. troops should stay in Iraq after the IS were defeated in order to present a resurgence of the terrorist group. The two were testifying before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee. Mattis said it would be a mistake to simply declare victory and pull out as the U.S. did in 2011.
There is no mention in these reports as to how the Iraqi government would react to all of this. The talk is always as if it is just up to the U.S. as to whether troops stay or not. But it isn't. Indeed the reason that the U.S. did not keep troops in Iraq in 2011 is because they could not strike an agreement with the Iraqi government. The Iraqis refused the US demand for immunity for their soldiers. Don't expect the main-stream media to even notice such irrelevant details!
After comments by U.S. and Iraqi officials that U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis was in talks with Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi about maintaining a "modest" U.S. military presence in Iraq after the defeat of the Islamic State the Iraqi PM issued a denial. Al-Abadi said:"The Iraqi government has plans and strategies to develop the capabilities of our security forces through training and arming to raise their readiness to face the challenges ahead"... It is open to all international expertise to meet the aspirations of Iraq to build military institutions and security apparatuses that enjoy full readiness to face any future security challenges, whether external or internal and in accordance with the requirements of Iraqi national sovereignty."
The statement is in contrast with that of an anonymous U.S. official who said: "There is a general understanding on both sides that it would be in the long-term interests of each to have that continued presence. So as for agreement, yes, we both understand it would be mutually beneficial. That we agree on." He said the troops would number several thousand or perhaps a little more. The Iraqi PM's office said that only military advisers would remain.
At present there are almost 7,000 U.S. troops in Iraq assisting Iraqi forces in the fight against the IS. Jafar al-Husseini, a representative from the Kataib Hezbollah militia, who are closely allied to Iran, claimed the army and paramilitaries were strong enough to defend Iraq themselves: "Iraq's security forces and the Popular Mobilisation Forces [PMUs] have the ability to protect [Iraq's] internal roads and borders, so why is al-Abadi using American security partners?" Influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is also opposed to the presence of any U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq. He and his supporters may end up attacking US troops if they remain after the defeat of the IS. Al-Haidi must consider the opposition any attempt to keep U.S. troops in Iraq could produce against him. He is obviously trying to downplay any continuing presence of the US in Iraq that he will allow. The U.S. will simply ignore the issue and may end up exactly where they were in 2011.

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