The Irrational Logic of Leaving Troops in Iraq, by Bonnie Kristian

The case for leaving troops in Iraq is just as solid and air-tight as the cases for leaving troops in Afghanistan and Syria. The only way for outsiders to win in the Middle East is to stay out. From Bonnie Kristian at nationalinterest.org:

Prolonging U.S. military intervention is making it more difficult for Iraq to achieve stability and sapping American defense resources.

raq does not need “direct and military support, and support on the ground” from the United States, new Iraqi prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said in an interview last week before his visit to Washington. His country might want U.S. “cooperation and assistance” at different levels in the future, Al-Kadhimi allowed, depending on “the changing nature of terrorism’s threat.” But the support he mentioned—military training and arms provision—would be a marked drawdown from the current U.S. role in Iraq.

American policymakers should take notice. After seventeen years of fighting, the war in Iraq is a demonstrable failure—and yet a failure with no end in sight.

The Trump administration has repeatedly promised to draw down the U.S. military presence in Iraq, but it’s not clear President Donald Trump really wants to leave. Apparently unguided by any coherent strategy, he threatens further escalation as easily as he condemns the initial invasion. His passion for ending “endless wars” is perhaps not all-consuming.

There are about five thousand American troops in Iraq now, basically the same deployment level as when this administration began. When the Iraqi parliament in January demanded all foreign troops leave their country, the administration rejected the request. “At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how best to recommit to our strategic partnership,” said the State Department, “not to discuss troop withdrawal.”

This is unsurprising, as key administration advisers evince no urgency toward departure: the commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., is open about his belief that the United States should continue to occupy Iraq forever, perpetually on hand to combat remnants of the Islamic State or whatever group succeeds it. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday promised the U.S. military would be busy in Iraq for a long time to come, refusing to discuss the possibility of withdrawal, asking reporters “not to focus on that.”

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