Now that the Islamic State has been eliminated in its conventional form and the cities of Raqqa, Syria and Mosul, Iraq have been liberated from their control, the United States Military has begun decreasing their presence on the ground. The Iraqi government officially declared victory over the Islamic State in December and has confirmed the reports. Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesman for the Iraqi government, stated that, “The battle against Daesh (ISIS) has ended and so the level of the American presence will be reduced.” He also point out that this was not the start of a complete draw down by the United States and that it was only the beginning of a gradual process.
As of last September, there were approximately 8,892 U.S. troops in Iraq and the current plan will be to eventually decrease and leave a standing force of around 4,000 in country. Allies were reassured the the United States would not be departing prematurely and that the proper procedures would be closely adhered to. Spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition tweeted that it, “will be conditions-based, proportional to the need, and in coordination with the Iraqi government,” in reference to the military draw down in the region. He added that coalition military advisors will continue to equip, train and support Iraqi Security Forces through intelligence gathering.
The United States first began it’s support Iraqi forces in August 2014 when the Iraqi government formally requested military aid after suffering major loses to the Islamic State including Mosul and large areas of the al-Anbar province. With conventional military operations concluded for Iraq, the majority of it’s military has been reallocated to border defense and local law enforcement. While this transpires, the U.S. military has shifted its focus to a heavy training presence within the ISF; focusing primarily on insurgency prevention.
Coalition Operations Director, Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga, announced, “We’re clear the enemy is still capable of offensive action and retains the ability to plan and inspire attacks worldwide. Although OIR’s [Operation Inherent Resolve] force composition may change over time to ensure we have the best forces on hand for the task, we will retain an appropriate amount of capabilities as well as an advisory presence to continue training, advising and equipping our partners in the continued fight against Daesh [ISIS], all with the approval of the Government of Iraq.”
As Iraq focuses on the draw down effort, United States personnel and equipment will be shifted to Afghanistan where efforts are being made to harden Kabul’s defense against the dwindling Islamic State forces and any chance of a Taliban come back. Whether Iraq will be able to stand and maintain on its own two feet this time around is still up in the air. The Iraqi Army has been reborn in the wake of the ISIS conflict and while they have proven their worth on the battlefield, have yet to focus primarily on security efforts.
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