Quincy Institute Senior Research Analyst Steven Simon and Research Fellow Adam Weinstein traveled together to Iraq last fall as part of their work to develop a plan for how the United States’ can withdraw its troops without harming the country’s security or political stability.
On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. still has 2,500 troops stationed in the country. While the Biden administration recently declared an end to the U.S. “combat mission” in Iraq, planning is still needed to execute a phased withdrawal over time while still supporting Iraq’s efforts to secure its future.
In Iraq, Weinstein and Simon met with numerous stakeholders in Iraqi politics and society, including Shi’a leaders, Sunni politicians, American diplomats, the office of Kurdistan’s president, the commander of Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service, and a former leader of the Anbar Awakening now involved in national reconciliation.
“The U.S. troop presence is currently necessary to stanch ISIS’ return, but over time will prove ineffective if the Iraqi state is unresponsive to the needs of its citizens,” Weinstein said of their findings, which will be published in a QI report in the coming months.
“In the long term, we want to withdraw our remaining troops and move toward normal relations with Iraq, while continuing to support our partners in maintaining the security gains of the last few years,” Weinstein added.
As part of their research, Weinstein and Simon also met with officials at the State Department, Pentagon, and White House in Washington, U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida, and traveled to Europe to meet with German and British officials to discuss the ongoing threat of ISIS.
The danger of continuing an open-ended, “conditions-based” deployment, according to Weinstein, is that the conditions may never be met, locking the US into a military posture that is unsustainable owing to political factors or competing strategic requirements. Careful planning can instead enable an orderly, stabilizing drawdown. “But after our military presence is over, we’ll need new ways of staying engaged — diplomatically, economically — to ensure the security of our local partners and the stability of Iraq,” Weinstein added.