Iraq’s parliament is set to debate the continued U.S. military presence in the country — an issue that has divided Iraq’s leading political groups, both Sunni and Shia.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s surprise visit to Iraq late last year, along with his statements about the continued U.S. military presence in the country, drew a range of reactions from Iraqi political groups.
The pro-Iran Fatah Alliance, of which the Hashd al-Shaabi is the main component, has described the continued U.S. military presence as a “challenge”.
The Asaeb Ahl al-Haq, a militant subcomponent of the Hashd al-Shaabi, has said it was ready to drive U.S. troops from the country by force if necessary.
Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Shia-led Reform and Development Alliance, for his part, said: “The policy of using Iraqi territory to target our neighbors [i.e., Iran] is not in our national interest and threatens our security.”
And Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most authoritative Shia religious figure, stated: “We refuse to be used [by the U.S.] as a staging ground for harming other countries.”
By contrast, Nouri al-Maliki, a former prime minister (2006-2014) known for his close ties with Tehran, has said that U.S. forces are still needed to secure Iraq.
“U.S. military experts, advisers and instructors are still needed here,” he said in remarks recently broadcast on Iraqi television.
Last month, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi asserted that there were no longer any foreign military bases in Iraq.
“The current mission of all foreign forces [operating in Iraq], including U.S. forces, is limited to anti-Daesh operations and training and advising Iraqi forces,” Abdul-Mahdi was quoted as saying.
Parliament Speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi, meanwhile, says Iraq still needs international support in its ongoing fight against terrorism.
“We plan to discuss the issue [i.e., the continued presence of foreign forces] in the assembly, but until then we have to ensure Iraq’s stability,” he said.
Since the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. military has maintained nine bases throughout the country.
Although Washington withdrew a significant number of troops from Iraq in 2011, it consolidated its military presence by establishing a handful of new bases.
The Victory Base, for example, located adjacent to Baghdad International Airport, continues to be used for training purposes.
In 2014, the U.S. military launched a series of anti-Daesh operations from Camp Al-Taqaddum and the Ayn al-Assad Airbase, both of which are located in Iraq’s western Anbar province.
In the almost five years since, U.S. troops have used a number of other existing bases in the war against Daesh, including the K1, Qayyarah and Harir bases.
Written By Maımaıtımıng Yılıxıatı