Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and President Biden announced last week that Washington will end its combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year. However, these long-serving U.S. soldiers are not coming home: many of the 2,500 American service members are expected to remain in the country for “training and advisory” purposes.
The United States and Iraq had issued a joint statement in April that the U.S. combat mission would be ending, but the timeline remained unclear. The timing of the recent announcement appears intended to boost Kadhimi’s prospects in October’s parliamentary elections — he faces domestic demands to oust U.S. forces, yet remains dependent on American support to maintain some semblance of control.
Many of the militia groups he now struggles to control initially assembled to fight the so-called Islamic State, or Daesh, starting in 2014. The Popular Mobilization Forces, or al-Ḥashd ash-Shaʿbī, many of whose fighters are Iraqi Shi’a, were supported by both the U.S. and Iran to defeat the Islamic State. The mobilization of these militias would not have been necessary if Paul Bremer and the Pentagon had not made the foolish decision to disband Iraq’s military following the U.S. invasion in 2003, as Iraq would still have possessed a functional army.