As the date for the withdrawal of US combat forces from Iraq approaches by the end of 2021, Iraqis remain sceptical about whether the withdrawal is real or just on paper.
In July, the US and Iraq held a strategic dialogue during which the two countries agreed to withdraw all US combat troops from Iraq by December 31, Xinhua news agency reported.
On November 24, Tahseen al-Khafaji, spokesman of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, said that there is no military base for them except for the Ayn al-Asad Air Base in the western province of Anbar.
“Most of the combat forces left Iraq, and only advisers and those working in the field of intelligence, reconnaissance, and training remain,” said al-Khafaji, adding that they will leave within 15 days.
However, political experts here are sceptical about the withdrawal because they believe that the US forces in Iraq are related to the US interests and plans in Iraq and the entire region.
Iraqi political analyst, Nadhum al-Jubouri, told Xinhua at the the Arab Forum that “there would be no real withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, neither after 15 days nor the end of the current year… there will be a change in the name of these forces only.”
Al-Jubouri said that Iraqis realize that the presence of US troops in Iraq would play a major role in the deterioration of security in Iraq and its destabilisation, so there is great pressure on the Americans to withdraw from the Iraqi government and the parliament, which issued a resolution on January 5, 2020, calling for a full withdrawal of the US forces.
Moreover, the Iraqi people held mass demonstrations denouncing the US presence.
“The Americans want to deceive Iraqis by saying that their troops’ presence is part of the international coalition to fight the extremist Islamic State (IS) group, and sometimes by changing the name of the missions of their remaining forces from combat to training and consultation,” al-Jubouri said.
“The continuous presence of the US troops is rejected by Iraqis, as some armed factions opened the door for volunteers to join their ranks to fight the US forces after midnight of December 31,” he added.
Political expert Sabah al-Sheikh told Xinhua that the activities of the US forces on the ground and in the air, in addition to building the largest US embassy in the world in Baghdad, indicate that they have no intention to withdraw their forces from the country.
“Talking about the US forces staying to train Iraqi forces is a big lie because the training is supposed to be on new weapons and equipment, and the Iraqi forces went through that experience before 2014, but when the Iraqi security forces failed to stop IS militants, they ended up with the formation of an anti-IS international coalition,” al-Sheikh said.
IS militants have intensified their attacks in the past months on security members and civilians, but they found themselves weak in front of the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces that gained momentum after the 2017 victories over the extremist group.
He also said that the IS group has lost its popular incubators that existed in 2014 in the Sunni provinces, stressing that “today the Iraqi people are aware and know that the IS group is a project to break up the unity of their country and that terrorism has nothing to do with faiths and ideologies.”
“Iraqis are well aware that the continued US military presence on Iraqi soil and the constant interference in its internal affairs, which has led to years of bloody conflicts between Iraqi factions since the US-led invasion in 2003, will not end without complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraqi territory,” he said.