Letter: Biden should jump at opportunity to withdraw troops from Iraq

As expected, the main Iraqi political blocs dominated this month’s parliamentary elections (“Sadr’s victory will not ease Iraq’s unease,” FT View, October 21). As cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s bloc has emerged as the kingmaker in the next parliament, the results are highly unlikely to inspire much confidence in an Iraqi public disillusioned and dejected by its own politicians.

Because the seat of a new Iraqi government will require Sadr’s support, there is a good chance that the US military presence in Iraq will end. Sadr has been relatively consistent in his worldview from the earliest stages of the US occupation, when his fighters fought US forces on the streets of Baghdad: Iraq must be cleansed of all foreign influence. When the intra-party bargaining is finally over, US officials may be dealing with a government in Baghdad that wants all US forces to leave the country.

Some US officials will shudder at such a thought, believing that a post-American Iraq will drift further into Iran’s orbit.

In reality, however, the Biden administration should accept the invitation to leave. The US military presence in Iraq was guided by one mission and one mission: to defeat the Territorial Caliphate of Isis. This work was accomplished with great fanfare almost four years ago, when Baghdad wiped out the last part of Isis territory along the Iraqi-Syrian border in December 2017.

Since then, US troops have been training and advising the more professional Iraqi security forces, a mission that has taken on an almost sinuous form.

Isis is now relegated to a loose, localized set of cells whose plans of attack are largely focused on targets of opportunity. The group is now a shell, having squandered all the support it once had for Sunni communities who viewed the Iraqi government with contempt. There is no longer a need for 2,500 American troops to be stationed in Iraq. If Sadr calls for a military departure from the United States, Washington should be happy to oblige.

Daniel R DePetris
Fellow, Defense Priorities
Washington, DC, United States


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