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Why Pentagon Has No Plans to Withdraw from Iraq

The recent statements from Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani about expelling US forces have reignited the discussion on the US military presence in Iraq. The Pentagon's response, articulated by spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, reiterates the US commitment to the mission of defeating ISIS and highlights the absence of formal notifications from the Iraqi government regarding withdrawal plans.


Al-Sudani's declaration of intent to expel the US-led international coalition follows a drone strike in Baghdad, an action that stirred controversy and drew condemnation from the Iraqi government. The strike resulted in the death of a deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a group aligned with Iraq's security forces. The incident sparked outrage and accusations of sovereignty violations by the US.


The US justified the strike by attributing responsibility to the individual killed for attacks on American troops, although no concrete evidence has been publicly presented to support this claim. This lack of transparency has fueled skepticism and added complexity to the ongoing tensions between the two nations.


However, a nuanced perspective emerges when considering the broader context. Reports suggest that al-Sudani, despite his public stance on expulsion, has privately expressed interest in negotiating continued US military presence. This discrepancy underscores the intricate political dynamics within Iraq and the need for balancing domestic politics with international relationships.


The history of attempts to remove US forces from Iraq provides crucial context. The Iraqi parliament voted to expel US forces in 2020 after a similar drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani and PMF leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Despite this vote, the US remained due to its substantial economic leverage over Iraq and strategic interests in the region.


The US maintains approximately 2,500 troops in Iraq under the pretext of combating ISIS. Al-Sudani has expressed confidence in Iraq's ability to handle the remnants of ISIS without international coalition support. Additionally, the US presence in Iraq is interconnected with its occupation of eastern Syria, where American troops are stationed.


The situation presents a complex interplay of geopolitical, security, and domestic political considerations for both Iraq and the US. The differing narratives and interests emphasize the need for diplomatic dialogue and mutual understanding to navigate the path forward.


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