Military May Stay in Iraq, Afghanistan Long Term
Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, has been in talks with the Secretary of Defense to keep the United States Military in Iraq after ISIS is defeated. Add that fact to General Nicholson’s request for more troops in Afghanistan and you have what looks like a long term US presence in those regions. How Syria fits into that equation is unknown at this time.
There are currently around 7,000 US Troops in Iraq, although not all of them are publicly acknowledged. From “assist and advise” missions, to coordinating airstrikes and ground operations, as well as Special Forces in operations on the front, the US military has been key to the stability of Iraq.
The Iraqi government also enlisted the aid of Iranian backed Shia forces after ISIS took over large swaths of the country, which made them part of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) joint command structure. The future of those Shia forces will depend on whether they try to undermine the Iraqi government, or stay as part of the ISF.
According to Wearethemighty, the talks have not centered around the creation of independent US bases, but instead leaving American troops inside several Iraqi bases. As long as they are there in an “advise and assist” mode, they can skirt having to get Iraq’s Parliamentary approval. A US official stated that the troops levels would likely be “a few thousand…similar to what we have now, maybe a little more.”
Even with 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, military officials have told SecDef Mattis that the current situation in Afghanistan is at a “stalemate.” In order to move past it, the need for more troops and an “enduring presence” is likely a necessity, although each member of NATO has been asked to increase its contribution in both troops and resources to such a presence.
“We are actually actively looking at adjustments to the approach in Afghanistan right now. The interest is to move beyond the stalemate and also to recognize that Afghanistan is a very important partner for the United States in a very tricky region.” Theresa Whalen
The Pentagon is to send their plan to adjust the US strategy in Afghanistan this coming week. The new strategy will discuss what that “enduring presence” will look like.
The idea behind both of these moves is to prevent ISIS from regaining ground, as happened after the US left in 2011. Though no independent US Bases are reportedly planned – as we have in various nations since after WWII – it appears the United States is destined to be in the Middle East for a long time. In the past, Mattis has stated he would not increase troops levels. But in the harsh reality of today, we all learn: “never say never.”
“You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the brutal facts. If they start living in a dream world, it’s going to be bad.” Gen James Mattis