U.S. To Keep Troops In Iraq After Leaving Syria and Afghanistan

American soldiers help train Iraqi troops and advise counterterrorism missions. (U.S. Department of Defense)

American soldiers help train Iraqi troops and advise counterterrorism missions. (U.S. Department of Defense)

President Donald Trump has announced plans to keep troops in Iraq to monitor neighboring Iran. The decision came shortly after the removal of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan, thereby signaling a continued American presence in the region.

Trump claims that his decision is based on security concerns. In an interview with CBS News, the president said, “We’re going to keep watching…and if there’s trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we’re going to know it before they do.”

The decision to keep U.S. troops in Iraq garnered publicity due to Trump’s recent announcement that American troops would soon leave Syria. Many experts believe that such a decision will allow the Islamic State to regroup following a long run of U.S. military successes against them, according to the Washington Post.

Trump has been negotiating with the Iraqi government about moving hundreds of American troops in Syria to Iraq, reported the New York Times. Senior American officials worry that this decision is intended to curtail Iran’s stronghold in the Middle East rather than provide aid and support to the Iraqi people.

This decision followed a recent visit by Trump and other U.S. officials to Al Asad airbase. Trump’s visit focused on discussing the capabilities of current American troops with regard to maintaining relative stability in the country, following its exhaustive civil war and government transition.

Jawad al-Musawi, a member of the Iraqi parliament, claimed that if American troops were to move from Syria into Iraq, “there will be an escalation in the opposition to them,” reports the New York Times.

Al-Musawi believes that the Iraqi people have a “mistrust in the American government” because in their eyes, it is clear that the U.S. only wants to enter Iraq to limit Iran’s regional influence.

Although the removal of troops from Syria is already underway, the New York Times reports that government officials and leaders at the Pentagon have strongly encouraged Trump to continue airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria.

The New York Times further said that the National Security Council meeting suggested a continued supply of weapons and equipment from the Pentagon to Arab and Kurdish forces to offset the U.S. withdrawal.

In recent weeks, the number of American troops in Syria has increased as a means of ensuring safety during the process of bringing back or relocating troops, the New York Times reports. There are presently about 5,200 U.S. troops in Iraq.

In response to the increase in American troops, Shia factions in Iraq are attempting to push forward a plan to limit American involvement, seeing it as a means of targeting Shia-dominated Iran, according to the Washington Post.

Although the Islamic State has weakened recently, any wrongfully calculated decision could wreak chaos in the Middle East.