U.S withdrawal from Iraq

U.S has announced that it is on schedule to complete combat operations in Iraq by the 31st of August. It has also announced that U.S troop levels are now below 50000 as planned.

U.S invaded Iraq in 2003 to achieve the following objectives.

  1. To overthrow the Saddam government. Saddam government has become hostile to U.S after the Kuwaiti invasion and U.S was committed to the removal of the government . After failing to achieve this objective by most inhumane sanctions ever , U.S was committed to military overthrow of the government.
  2. To destroy Iraqi armed forces. Before the Kuwait invasion Iraqi armed forces remained the strongest Arab armed forces to face U.S ally Israel. Due to it's proximity to Israel , it was considered a major conventional threat to Israel. In spite of the Kuwaiti invasion defeat and sanctions Iraqi armed forces remained the strongest Arab army. As such it has to be destroyed.
  3. To establish a puppet Iraqi government . This government will open Iraqi mineral and oil resources to multinationals.
U.S succeeded in achieving the first two objectives with the invasion. Third objective has been almost achieved. With the surge of U.S troops in 2008 insurgency by mainly sunni population (which ruled Iraq under Saddam) was brought under control. Currently there is no serious threat to the pro US government . Although the ruling coalitions are unstable and there is no proper government after the elections ruling pro US elite is under no threat . In addition U.S wanted to move more troops to Afghanistan. Current U.S government considers Afghanistan as it's priority. Furthermore Iraqi resources has been already distributed among the multinationals

What will happen next?

U.S will continue to support the Iraqi rulers indirectly . Having 50000 troops will be sufficient. They will provide the command and control for the Iraqi forces. These Iraqi forces do not even have Tanks. From U.S point of view main function of Iraqi forces is counter insurgency. U.S will defend Iraq against any external threat including perceived threat from Iran. This can be achieved by the 50000 troops and the massive U.S fleet in the Persian gulf.

Currently there are couple of in-determinants.

First and foremost among them is the strength of Sunni insurgency. The insurgents were never wiped out. Insurgency was only lying low. It is clear that the insurgency will pick up again. Attacks in the last few weeks show that the insurgency is active  and Iraqi forces cannot cope with it. Neighboring Sunni Arab countries support the insurgency for their own reasons. These governments are scared of their own Shia populations and want to remove the Shia government in Iraq. In addition they also see the Shia Iraqi government as a pro Iranian government. It is highly likely the insurgency will continue and intensify. However it is unlikely that the insurgency will be able to overthrow the government as it still lacks support among the majority Shia population.

Second factor is the Shia based Iraqi government. Although U.S would have preferred a puppet secular government, they have to content with a Shia government. This government also has reasonably good relationship with Iran. If the insurgency intensifies and Shia civilians are killed in large numbers , Government will be tempted to seek assistance from Iran to strengthen it's weak armed forces.It is possible in this case that U.S influence is undermined.

Third factor is the weak armed forces. These forces consist of former Baathist officers, Shia officers etc. Although they have been trained by U.S , they are riven by factionalism . It is possible that some officers could stage a Libyan style military coup in a very unstable situation. Young officers in Libyan army overthrew the monarchy in 1968 while there was still a very large U.S military presence. Iraqis are still very nationalistic.

Since august violence in Iraq has increased. Levels of sunni insurgency is back to the levels of 2007. Sunni insurgents have carried out daily attacks on Iraqi forces and Shia civilians. In addition there is no proper government formed after elections 8 months ago.  Maliki  government is still in place.
Next few months will show how these factors will play out.

November 2010