After Taliban fighters have taken control of Afghanistan and defeated the Afghan army backed by the United States in conjunction with foreign forces withdrawing from the country, observers warn of the Afghan scenario gets repeated in Iraq leaving the country prey to Iranian influence through its arms and armed militias. There is also some fear of reviving “ISIS” organization.
The scene of Taliban taking control of Kabul and the Afghan forces fleeing, with the latest types of American equipment and weapons has repeated the scenario when Iraqi army, which numbered at least 30,000, escaped and left all its equipment to ISIS on June 10, 2014.
ISIS and PMF..
One of the differences between the two scenes is that Ashraf Ghani, Afghan President, fled to Tajikistan and did not find protection, while Nouri al-Maliki took refuge with the US forces and activated The Strategic Framework Agreement he signed with the US administration at the end of 2008. Another distinction is the emergence of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization militias in Iraq under the pretext of fighting ISIS.
On 26 July in 2021, Joe Biden, US President, announced that the combat missions of the American forces in Iraq will come to an end by the end of this year, although the American forces that arrived in Iraq in 2014 were primarily tasked with training and providing advice and intelligence information for the Iraqi army.
Mithal Al-Alusi, a former Iraqi MP, has warned of replicating Afghanistan’s scenario in Iraq after the U.S. troops’ withdrawal by the end of the current year.
“There are serious concerns among many political and public communities about the total U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as this will open the way further and wider for Iranian-backed militias to take full control of the political, security and economic file. Therefore, the U.S. withdrawal may pave the way for repeating Afghanistan’s scenario in Iraq, but the difference is that Iran and its militias will be taking full control over Iraq,” Al-Alusi says.
“The American presence in Iraq is a guarantee that Iraq will not be completely occupied by either Iran or any political or armed groups, and for this particular reason, there are many influential political parties as well as popular circles stand with the American presence in Iraq because it would repel Iraq turning into an officially province affiliated with Iran,” he adds.
The formula of the recent US-Iraqi agreement about the end of the combat missions of the American forces by the end of the year appears that it seeks to satisfy the factions affiliated with Iran in Iraq as the American forces have not participated in any combat operation since their return to Iraq at Al-Maliki government’s call in 2014, after Mosul had fallen to ISIS. However, there were few exceptions, such as the air cover provided by the American aviation to Iraq during the war and some limited operations to either protect American soldiers in Iraqi camps or to respond to the attacks on the American embassy in Baghdad.
America and Failing Regimes..
“The experience proves that the driver of American policies has always been Washington’s supreme interests only, and when those interests require departure, America simply leaves its allies and abandons them, which is what we have noticed in many historical and modern stations,” says Tariq Jawhar, an Iraqi writer. The writer points out that in Vietnam, America abandoned its allies and collaborators, and the same happened recently in 2019, when its forces
withdrew from large areas extended from Ras al-Ain to Tal Abyad in northern Syria to be pervaded by Turkey.
Jawhar has explained that the blame is not only on Washington, as the failing regimes bear responsibility for not being able to present rational and valid models of ruling, especially in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq.
“After 20 years of presence in Afghanistan, Washington, in the end, loses hope and hands over Afghanistan to Taliban,” he says.
In addition, “for 3 decades, the United States has protected Iraqi Kurdistan, but the pace of criticism of the US State Department’s reports on the region escalates year after year, especially in terms of human rights, democracy, freedom of opinion and press,” Jawhar opines.
“These are of course reservations and serious critical observations, which may lead to comprehensive revisions and reconsideration of Washington’s supportive approaches and policies in case the democracy continued to decline in the Iraqi Kurdish region,” he adds.
“In all of Iraq and for the past 18 years, Washington has been protecting the situation it has established in the country, and year after year, those who hold the reins of government in Iraq supported by the American are in steady decline, and they are widely getting tyrants, corrupted and authoritarian,” Jawhar emphasizes.
After a visit by Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, Iraqi Prime Minister, to the United States, during which he met with Joe Biden, US President, it was announced at the end of last July that all American combat forces will have withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year, within the Framework of the Strategic Agreement between the United States and Iraq. There are currently 2,500 US troops deployed in three bases, and this number is negligible compared to the 160,000-strong force when Iraq was occupied in 2003.
The recent US-Iraqi agreement has not brought anything new, but it represents a victory for the armed militias, as it would force America to withdraw from Iraq and change its plans. Therefore, there is no longer a need to attack withdrawing defeated forces. However, this excuse is among many excuses that can be called when needed as these groups that are affiliated to the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist via the generals of Quds Force, can return to attacking the Iraqi camps and the American embassy when Iran instructs them.
Observers believe that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime by the United States had opened the door to Iran’s hegemony in the region, which Tehran has exploited well since then, by inserting armed loyal groups into the Iraqi security establishment. Furthermore, Tehran’s allies have a strong voice and presence in the Iraqi Parliament.
Iran has also betted on a strategy based on indirect pressure on the American military presence. This pressure has been a series of repeated attacks by its militias on American bases in order to force the United States to consider staying in the region not worth it. What confirms this is that the pro-Iranian militias’ attacks have stopped since the United States announced its intention to withdraw from country.
It is noteworthy that the United States came to Afghanistan under the pretext of fighting terrorism and hunting down Osama bin Laden, but the hidden reasons were controlling the region close to Russia and obtaining the bounties of the Caspian Sea. It had been a scenario similar to what the US did in Iraq, when it raised the slogan of overthrowing Saddam Hussein and saving the Iraqis, but the truth was that America wanted to swallow up Iraq’s wealth and oil, then, leave it to Iran, so it can make from Iraq a state affiliated with Tehran.
Washington Post, the American newspaper, has stated in a report that the administration of Joe Biden is taking a more careful and successful approach in Iraq, especially after the rapid and chaotic withdrawal of American forces from
Afghanistan. The newspaper points out that Biden has found the perfect solution for Iraq, as he will keep a small American force there that can train the Iraqi army, provide it with intelligence and protect it from its powerful neighbors. This solution has had the support of most Iraqi political blocs.