What the US troop withdrawal means for Iraq

What the US troop withdrawal means for Iraq
Date: 22.11.2020 12:00

Pullout decision likely to shift power significantly in favour of Iran, which President Trump has sought to weaken via his ‘maximum pressure campaign’.

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The US has announced it will further reduce the number of troops stationed in the Middle East, causing further consternation among analysts who worry such a move may be to the detriment of one of the region’s key states, Iraq.
Acting US Secretary of Defense Christoph Miller announced on Tuesday President Donald Trump’s decision to reduce US troop presence in Afghanistan and Iraq to 2,500 each by January 15, 2021.
The impact of an American withdrawal has long sparked unease, as many feel it would accelerate the growth of Iran’s influence and a resurgence of the ISIL (ISIS) armed group.
Shortly after the announcement was made, Baghdad’s Green Zone, a heavily fortified area that houses foreign embassies, including that of the US, became the target of a rocket attack. These attacks have become a frequent occurrence in 2020, emblematic of Iraq’s current situation.
Iran’s unremitting presence
The perpetrators believed responsible for conducting the attack are Shia militias backed by Tehran. In recent years, armed groups such as Kataib Hezbollah have gained strength in Iraq, undermining efforts to create stability in the country.
Kataib Hezbollah is part of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a government-sponsored Iraqi umbrella organisation – comprising about 40 militias – formed in 2014 to fight ISIL.
When Iraq’s then-Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi restructured the country’s armed forces in 2018, the PMF’s militias, including Kataib Hezbollah, became part of the Iraqi military.
This allowed Iran to wield even more power in Iraqi affairs from government to business and within the military, allowing Tehran to directly influence its neighbour’s decision-making process and play a pivotal role in the struggle for power in the country.


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