US soldiers from A Co., 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, stand in formation for a promotion ceremony at Joint Security Station McHenry, near Hawija, north of Baghdad, Iraq. Image Credit: AP

The withdrawal of US troops over the month of August was a major event in Iraq. It attracted the attention of the international community, and plenty of media coverage. Political analyses of the event filled publications all over the world.

The US has announced the end of its combat mission in Iraq and its remaining troops — less than 50,000 of them — will be based outside of major cities. These troops will be tasked with assisting and training Iraqi forces. The final withdrawal will be completed by the end of December 2011.

Iraq had long called for the withdrawal of US troops, and the event was largely seen as a positive development in both Iraq and the US. However, the withdrawal may not work to the advantage of all political elites in Iraq and the US.

The US troop drawdown may assuage the concerns harboured by a number of Middle East countries since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but there is no guarantee that the remaining troops will leave as stipulated by the Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa) signed between the two countries in 2008.

Reading between the lines brings one to different conclusions. On the ground, there are those who are sceptical about the US' true intentions.

The reasons for the scepticism are varied. For one thing, the only countries the US has fully withdrawn from after invading are North Korea and Vietnam. In both instances, the US went through a difficult war and was then forced to withdraw during the prevailing Cold War circumstances because both countries were geographically adjacent to an Eastern bloc country.

There is no reason to think that Iraq will be another exception, especially since the US presence in the country has not been resisted to the point of expulsion as it was in North Korea and Vietnam.

The partial withdrawal of US troops may well be a tactical move to serve certain political agendas prevailing in Iraq. It is also in line with US President Barack Obama's presidential campaign pledge, which helped him to win election.

The initial withdrawal will also contribute positively in improving the US military's deteriorating image, as a sizable portion of the forces that leave Iraq will be transferred to Afghanistan.


Iraq will require the protection of US troops well after 2011, as was candidly expressed by Iraqi Chief of Staff Babekir Zibari, who stated that Iraq's army will not be ready to defend the country before 2020.

There are also those who believe that the US systematically destroyed the Iraqi army so that it could maintain a lengthy military presence in the country.

The US has endured considerable material and human losses in Iraq. Some estimate the cost of the war at $1 trillion (Dh3.678 trillion), while more than 4,000 US troops have lost their lives during the course of the war. Moreover, most of the 30,000 soldiers injured during the war have been permanently debilitated, making them a burden on the US Treasury for the rest of their lives.

All this and the cost of the 13-year trade embargo on Iraq suggests that the US has no real intention to withdraw all of its troops from the country.

The US has spent vast sums of money on diplomatic and military infrastructure in Iraq. For example, the US embassy in Baghdad is the country's biggest anywhere in the world.

On the military level, US bases are of such a size that they appear to have been created with future strategies in mind, especially looking at their communication systems and logistics.

The US strategy for the post-Cold War era has entailed plans to dominate the Middle East. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, because of the huge energy resources available. And secondly, the region is an excellent market for western products.

The US entered Iraq to implement its post-Cold War strategy, as a number of countries that had been Soviet allies have lost their source of political and military support.

The essence of this policy, pioneered by former US vice-president Dick Cheney, is to prevent another superpower emerging to challenge the US.

One of the key elements of this policy is to control resources. Controlling sources of oil, which fuels industry, will give the US substantial room to manoeuvre.

Dr Mohammad Akef Jamal is an Iraqi writer based in Dubai.