U.S. troops to remain in Iraq as mission evolves again

Matt Saintsing
February 05, 2018 - 2:01 pm

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Audrey Ward


Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led anti-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria, clarified comments made Monday by an Iraqi government spokesperson, and hinted at maintaining an American force in Iraq indefinitely.

Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesperson for the government of Iraq, said “the battle against Daesh has ended, and so the level of the American presence will be reduced.” “Daesh” is an Arabic acronym for ISIS.

But Operation Inherent Resolve announced a shift in focus of the campaign in Iraq, while steering clear of any language of a drawdown, or troop reduction.

"The Coalition will tailor our forces in consultation with our Iraqi partners in order to ensure the lasting defeat of Daesh," said CJTF-OIR director of operations, Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga.

"Although OIR’s force composition may change over time to ensure we have the best forces on hand for the task, we will retain an appropriate amount of capabilities as well as an advisory presence to continue training, advising and equipping our partners in the continued fight against Daesh, all with the approval of the Government of Iraq."

While ISIS has lost nearly all of the territory they once held in Iraq and Syria, the international terrorist group is likely to transition back into an insurgency role, and away from the quasai-state they once were. 

The Washington Examiner reported Monday that the Pentagon will keep U.S. troop levels in Iraq at just over 5,000 for the foreseeable future. While troop numbers will continue to hover around the 5,000 mark, the types of soldiers and missions they’ll conduct may change.

For example, forward air controllers who direct airstrikes against enemy ground targets will be shifted away from the battlefield and towards training Iraqi troops to do that mission.

Last week, Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, said “the timeline for the military defeaf of ISIS can now be measured in weeks,” while speaking at Jordan’s National Defense School, according to Defense One.

But what happens next still remains unclear.  

Speaking to reporters last month after returning from a visit to Iraq, Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters “I think the situation in Iraq is a lot different than it was three or four years ago when ISIS came rolling out of the desert and screaming down the Euphrates River Valley.”

But he added “There is a lot of work left to be done.”

Operation Inherent Resolve began in October 2014, when the U.S.-led coalition began training Iraqi troops and Syrian rebels to defeat ISIS. The coalition also conducts airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.