A bad start to the new year for US troops in Iraq

For most people, the dawn of a new year is filled with hope and anticipation of possibilities in the coming months. However, for U.S. troops still stationed in Iraq, the first days of 2022 look like 2021 — with hostile fire that could take down in an instant.

During the first five days of this new year, there have been three separate attacks against US forces in Iraq. First, on January 3, involving two fixed-wing “suicide drones” of unknown origin targeting the Diplomatic Support Center. The C-RAM air defense system protects this facility, where United States Army The advisors are based, have been activated instantly, shoot down the drones before they can achieve impact.

Second attack, on the 4th of january, which took place about 140 miles northwest, where two fixed-wing drones carrying explosives approached Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province. Again, however, the drones were destroyed before they could reach their target. Tomorrow, January 5, five rockets landed near the same base. The US military tasked with training and advising Iraqi security forces was able to get away with all of these incidents without casualties. That is a good news.

Bad news: Attacks of this kind will almost certainly continue throughout the year and as long as US troops remain in Iraq. The fact that both attacks are possible revenge for killing America Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in 2020 has little comfort as the pace of these operations shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. To expect hostile missiles and drones to magically stop or decelerate as the tributes of Soleimani occur is that you have to engage in dreamy (and dangerous) thinking. Until US policymakers in Washington actually make the decision to withdraw all troops from Iraq, the Shiite militias currently confronting the Iraqi army officially as a fighting force will remain. intends to do what they can to push the United States out of Iraq. .

The 2,500 US forces in the country find themselves in a situation where their mere presence promotes the kinds of asymmetrical operations we now see. Even before this week’s incident, attacks on US positions on Iraqi military bases had become routine. According to the Defense Intelligence Agency, there are more than 300 attacks against US forces in Iraq from late 2019 to fall 2021, resulting in US deaths and 25 injuries. As one might expect, the United States retaliated against some of those attacks, as when a US Air Force jet bombed Weapons facilities of Shiite militias on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border last June. The Pentagon at that time assert those operations will send a “clear deterrent message“for relevant groups: If you target Americans, you will suffer the consequences.

However, as US officials have discovered, it is difficult to stop an NGO. Why: Unlike a state, which has to deal with a multitude of concerns such as securing control over sovereign institutions, NGOs do not have to worry about losing formal power . Their motivation to do what we want them to do has been diminished. We can see this most clearly in Iraq; despite several US air strikes on outposts of Shiite militias under the President Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the same militiamen continued to conduct operations against US forces as if those attacks had not even occurred.

American soldiers on foot
US troops walk as a US Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter flies over the village of Oreij, south of Mosul, on February 22, 2017.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP via Getty Images

If there was a core American security goal that required American troops to be in Iraq for an indefinite period of time, perhaps American officials could streamline all of this. However, this is hardly the case in Iraq and Syria. The mission that the US military sought to carry out in both countries, to destroy the territory of the Islamic State, has been accomplished.

ISIS can still conduct low-level activities and regular artillery attacks against Syrian and Iraqi positions, but attacking exposed and poorly trained troops is no sign of resilience or success. These days, ISIS spends most of its time simply surviving rather than planning and executing attacks. And because the group no longer controls any territory, it doesn’t have access to the monetization schemes (like taxing the millions of people who once lived under it) that filled the group’s coffers.

ISIS is also dealing with a kaleidoscope of enemies at once, all of which have no interest in allowing the terrorist group to rise. Russia, the Syrian government, the Syrian Democratic Forces, Turkey, and Iraq are all conducting missions against this group in one way or another, whether it air raids on fighter aircraft in the Syrian desert or widespread arrest of ISIS operators on Turkish soil.

This is not to downplay ISIS or its capabilities. Group still a legitimate threat, especially for regional governments.

All of this, however, only provides the Middle East stakeholders with more incentive to continue to put pressure on ISIS.

For the US military, men and women in uniform have done their job. It’s time to acknowledge successes and bring them home. Or, as Dan Caldwell, vice president of foreign policy at Stand Together, a former U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, told me, “If you don’t want troops to be shot in Iraq, withdraw your troops. instead of pretending They are not on combat duty. “

Daniel R. DePetris is a member of Defense Priorities and foreign affairs columnist at Newsweek.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

https://www.newsweek.com/bad-start-new-year-us-troops-iraq-opinion-1665996 A bad start to the new year for US troops in Iraq

Ethan Gach

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