Iraq’s push to remove U.S. troops risky as country recovers from ISIS, experts say

A push led by pro-Iran factions to oust U.S. troops from Iraq following the U.S. airstrike that killed a top Iranian general is gaining momentum, bolstered by a Parliament vote calling on the government to remove them.

But the path forward is unclear, and in Iraq’s deeply divided terrain, with a resigned prime minister and raging proxy war between Iran and the U.S., ending America’s 17-year military presence in Iraq is a risky undertaking.

Iraq was barely starting to recover from a devastating four-year war against the Islamic State group when a mass uprising against the country’s ruling elite erupted on Oct. 1, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi two months later. He hasn’t been replaced.

A pullout of U.S. troops could cripple the fight against Islamic State militants and allow the extremists to make a comeback. Militants affiliated with IS routinely carry out attacks in northern and western Iraq, hiding out in rugged desert and mountainous areas. Iraqi forces rely on the U.S. for logistics and weapons in pursuing them.

An American withdrawal could also enable Iran to deepen its influence in Iraq, which like Iran is a majority Shiite country.

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