On August 19th, Army Colonel Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS announced that the US Forces will remain in Iraq as long as necessary.
“We’ll keep troops there as long as we think they’re needed,” he said in a press conference in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “The main reason, after ISIS (Daesh) is defeated militarily, is the stabilization efforts and we still need to be there for that, so that’s one of the reasons we’ll maintain a presence,” he added.
Initially the US announced a partial withdrawal from Iraq in February 2018, two months after the Iraqi authorities announced the defeat of ISIS. “The American forces have begun reducing their numbers as victory has been achieved over Daesh,” a spokesman said on February 5th. “Coordination continues, to maintain (US) assistance to the Iraqi forces in accordance with their requirements,” he continued.
However, US Army 1st Lt William John Raymond based at Al-Asad was cited by AP: “We’ve had a recent change of mission and soon we’ll be supporting a different theater of operations in the coming month.” Furthermore, a US-led coalition spokesman declined to confirm or deny that the withdrawal had begun. “It is our intent to publish a release whenever we have forces moving out of the theater,” the spokesman, US Army Col Ryan Dillon said, cited by Reuters.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has numerous times said that Iraq wishes for fewer US forces on its territory after the defeat of ISIS.
However, no notable withdrawal has been performed as of August 20th, 2018.
Regarding Syria, on March 29th, 2018, US President Donald Trump said that the US would withdraw from Syria “very soon.” His words were: “We’re knocking the hell out of Isis. We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.” Despite Trump’s words, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that she was “unaware” about any plans for withdrawal. As of March 2018, The Pentagon had acknowledged about 2,000 troops in Syria, many of them who were working closely with the Kurdish militia the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against ISIS.
Despite Trump’s promise to withdraw, no such thing happened. Furthermore, in April 2018, the US ordered missile strikes against Syria in response to an alleged poison gas attack in Douma.
On May 19th, Reuters cited the Pentagon which had reported that ISIS had lost 98% of its territory in Iraq and Syria.
According to an article by Vox from June 29th, prior to the July 16th Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki, the US President still wished for withdrawal of forces from Syria, however his national security team has been strongly against it.
Furthermore, on July 16th, National Security Advisor John Bolton linked the continued presence of U.S. troops in Syria with the “menace” posed by Iran in the region. Ahead of the meeting between Trump and Putin, which reached no conclusive agreements between the leaders, Bolton commented “I think the president’s made it clear that we are there until the ISIS territorial caliphate is removed, and as long as the Iranian menace continues throughout the Middle East.”
Almost 5 months after Trump initially claimed that US troops would withdraw from Syria and almost 7 months since US troops supposedly began withdrawing from Iraq no such thing has been achieved. There is a clear discrepancy between what the US President claims regarding US presence in the two countries and what is actually being realized.