Baghdad, Jul 27 (EFE).- Some sectors in Iraq fear that the withdrawal of the remaining US troops in the country by year’s end could leave a vacuum for terror groups and armed militias to exploit.
The White House announced the official end of the US mission in Iraq and full withdrawal of combat forces, 10 years after the initial withdrawal of troops from the country in 2011, which put an end to the controversial invasion launched in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein.
Under former President Donald Trump, US troops abandoned nearly a dozen bases in Iraq and cut its personnel by half, with around 2,500 soldiers remaining in the Arab country.
It is likely that the remaining troops will carry out training and advising missions, as they have been doing since late 2020.
The change, however, has raised concerns among some Iraqi political groups that worry about the withdrawal of US troops encouraging a resurgence of the Islamic State terror organization, officially defeated in 2017 but still active in the region.
The change of role assumed by US troops is cause for discrepancies as well as concern, according to Arab Forum for Analyzing Iranian Policy expert Nazem Ali Abdullah.
“Some (sectors) see that Iraq still needs US support and its combat troops to face the remnants of IS that are still active in some areas,” despite its territorial defeat in 2017, he told Efe.
Shiite militias and armed groups “linked to foreign agendas” could take advantage of the situation “to seize control of the country or to begin fighting each other,” which would turn Iraq into “hell,” he added.
The US decision could also pave the way for the Popular Mobilization Forces Shiite militia — which is enlisted in the army but does not report to the government — to have “the final decision on any future matters” related to security.
Iraqi Army Brigadier General, Abdullah al-Jabouri, said that the withdrawal could have an impact on the Iraqi air forces.
“It would mean a loss of capacity to bomb positions of terrorist groups present in the mountains and remote areas,” he told Efe.
Although the US has not launched airstrikes on IS in Iraq in months, it plays a key role in training the pilots and the maintenance of F-16 aircrafts.
Military leaders oppose the withdrawal, arguing that Iraq is still in need of air and intelligence support, tasks that, in principle, the Americans will continue to carry out. EFE