The U.S military combat mission in Iraq is over. The 2500 US troops on the ground have now transitioned to an advise and assist mission but will not leave the country. There’s no doubt that Iraqis are tired of conflict. But while some welcome the end of the combat mission, calling it a “win” for Iraq in a war that began two decades ago, many in the country are alarmed by the prospect.
Iraqis remember what happened after US troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011 and were forced to redeploy to combat ISIS. There’s a real concern that conditions are ripe for a repeat of events which saw ISIS mobilizing and occupying Mosul and a land area that was home to over 4 million civilians across central and northern Iraq.
But are fears of ensuing violence and chaos justified this time? The US government maintains that little on the ground will change. They say that because American soldiers will remain in an advisory capacity, there won’t be a repeat of the scenes during the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021. However, as we witnessed in Afghanistan, when the US moved to more of an “advisory” capacity focused on training local forces and began drawing down troops, the Taliban grew stronger and became a more powerful adversary to the then Afghan government. This paved the way for the ultimate Taliban takeover when the US met its agreed deadline for full withdrawal.
Arguably the current political situation in Iraq does not offer much reassurance either. Even though Iraq’s election commission has finally announced results for parliamentary elections held in October, a new government or Prime Minister could still be months away. Powerful armed militia groups lost the votes they had before, their accusations of electoral fraud raises fears of wider instability. Not long ago, the Iraqi Prime Minister survived an assassination attempt after a drone strike on his home. Some anti-US political parties are pushing for a full withdrawal of ALL US forces, taking the position that US occupation and sanctions have hurt, more than helped the country. Whatever happens, there is a palpable fear that the end of the US mission will create more opportunities for ISIS to re-emerge and for violence among the various political and ideological parties across Iraq.
Over the last ten years, Women for Women International has served thousands of marginalized women in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, also reaching displaced Yezidi and Syrian refugees. Experience tells us that any escalation in the political situation or any further conflict is bound to have a direct impact on the most vulnerable. Poverty is high, especially among women – 28% of the 4.1 million people currently needing humanitarian assistance are women.
"Over the last ten years, Women for Women International has served thousands of marginalized women in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, also reaching displaced Yezidi and Syrian refugees."
Besides, Iraqis have had enough of chaos and conflict. It’s time to reconstruct this country, to bring peace and the right conditions for women and marginalized groups to rebuild their lives. As America’s combat mission closes, plans must be put in place for the stability and security of the country. Iraqis deserve nothing less.
Aram Shakerm is the Country Director for Women for Women International in Iraq. Women for Women International helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives. Over the last decade, Women for Women International - Iraq has served thousands of marginalized women in federal Iraq and the KRI. Since 2003, WfWI has reached Iraqi and Kurdish women as well as displaced Yazidi, Iraqi and Syrian refugee women in Baghdad, Karbala, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Shekhan.