Photo via US Navy/REUTERS
Effective WED 15 JAN 2020 the United States military resumed joint tactical operations with Iraq, U.S. military officials said. This brings to conclusion a 10 day cessation of U.S. military activity in Iraq in the immediate wake of the U.S. airstrike that resulted in the killing of a top Iranian military commander earlier in the month in Baghdad.
U.S. led coalition counter-terror missions in Iraq had been suspended since JAN 05 2020, two days after an American MQ-9 Reaper drone struck a convoy target at the Baghdad International Airport
The decision by U.S. strategists to re-engage American tactical efforts comes less than two weeks after a resounding vote by the Iraqi Parliament in favor of expelling all American military forces from that embattled country. Many within the Iraqi government hold the United States government responsible for flagrantly violating Iraq’s sovereignty as an independent country by executing airstrikes over Iraqi airspace and on targets on Iraqi soil without coordination with Iraqi officials. However, anonymous U.S. military officials have confirmed that U.S. – Iraq joint tactical missions have indeed re-started, with a focus on engaging operational targets within and against the Islamic State.
In a recent statement on Iraq’s decision-making process pursuant to the expelling of U.S. Forces from Iraq, acting prime minister Abdel Abdul Mahdi stated that “if we reach the decision to get the (U.S.) forces out of Iraq, then this would be the decision of the Iraqi government.” The acting prime minister further clarified that in the event that the Iraq government did decide to expel American forces, that “an appropriate timeline” would be followed, underscoring the reality that any departure of U.S. forces would not be immediate. Mr. Abdul Mahdi had recently entreated U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to dispatch delegates to Iraq to commence with working out the details of a U.S. troops withdrawal. Secretary Pompeo summarily rebuffed the request, however, stating that the continued mission of American forces in Iraq is to train Iraqi forces to fight the Islamic State, and that the U.S. was “going to continue that mission.”
Despite the Iraqi parliament’s recent vote in favor of expelling U.S. forces, significant segments exist within Iraq who are quite reticent about the idea of pushing for withdrawal of US. troops. Many Iraqi military officials strongly oppose the idea of supporting a U.S. forces withdrawal from Iraq, due to their knowledge of the dire need of American assistance in tamping down on the ever burgeoning threat that the Islamic State presents in the region. These officials acknowledge that without the presence of U.S. led coalition efforts to combat extremist terror organizations, the resurgence of such groups in the region would indeed be very likely.
Affecting the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq would actually take more than a vote from the Iraqi Parliament, stated some U.S. officials. Such a move would require Iraq to terminate standing agreements the Iraqi government has signed onto with the U.S and other coalition partners facilitating training, advising, and assistance from foreign partners in the fight against terrorism and the Islamic State.