“... the Iraqis still want us to be there ... So as long as they want it, and we can mutually agree that's the case — we’re going to be there.”
CENTCOM commander Gen. Frank McKenzie on the U.S. keeping 2,500 troops in Iraq.
dec 10, 2021
- In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, CENTCOM commander General Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. military leader for the Middle East, explained that the United States will maintain a presence of 2,500 troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future.
- Despite the U.S. withdrawal in 2011, there has been a renewed American military presence in Iraq since 2014 in order to help fight the Islamic State (IS).
- Recently, the U.S. has been moving to a non-combat role in Iraq, reflecting the Biden administration's July announcement to conclude the combat mission by the end of this year. However, Gen. McKenzie said U.S. troops will continue to provide military aid, including air support, to help Iraq fight IS.
Why It Matters: Gen. McKenzie expressed concern about Iranian-backed militias, since Iran (which borders Iraq to the east and is a U.S. designated state sponsor of terrorism) does not want American presence in Iraq. Gen. McKenzie explained: "They actually want all U.S. forces to leave, and all U.S. forces are not going to leave ... that may provoke a response as we get later into the end of the month."
Big Picture: U.S. presence in the Middle East has markedly decreased since 2020, as the U.S. has identified China and Russia as greater security threats at this time. However, as The Associated Press reports: "He (Gen. McKenzie) said he believes Islamic State militants will continue to be a threat in Iraq and that the group will 'keep recreating itself, perhaps under a different name.' The key, he said, will be to ensure that IS is not able to coalesce with other elements around the globe and become increasingly strong and dangerous."