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Will the U.S. Actually Leave Iraq?

State of the Union: A recent Quincy Institute event examined the prospects for ending American involvement in Iraq, now in its third decade.
Picture released by the US military show
(Photo credit SGT ADRIAN CADIZ/AFP via Getty Images)

The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft hosted a panel Monday to debate some of the questions generated by recent diplomatic events between America and Iraq, most notably: Will the U.S withdraw troops from Iraq in the near future?

The talk, titled “Iraq and the United States: Return to the Status Quo or Calm Before the Storm?” featured Adam Weinstein, Deputy Director of the Middle East Program at the Quincy Institute, Steven Simon, professor at the University of Washington, Mohammed Shummary, a professor at Al-Nahrain University, Sajad Jiyad, director of the Shia Politics Working Group, and Simona Foltyn, an independent journalist.


Following October 7, Iran-aligned militias in Iraq resumed attacking U.S. troops in both Iraq and Syria after an extended period of inactivity. On January 28, 2024, three U.S. Army reservists at Tower 22, a base in Jordan supporting the U.S. mission in Syria, were killed by a drone attack by an Iran-aligned militia in Iraq. This catastrophe put the risks faced by U.S. troops in the region into the spotlight. 

In April, the Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin discussed ongoing security cooperation between the U.S. and Iraq.

According to Weinstein, there are currently about 2,500 American troops in Iraq serving in an “advisory capacity.” The panelists had differing views on whether U.S. presence in the country is stabilizing or not. 

Foltyn said that U.S. military presence in Iraq may be a good thing. “Western governments look at it as necessary for stability,” she said when asked about how Europe would respond to an American withdrawal. The real issues that threaten stability in Iraq are allegedly “climate change, drug addiction, youth unemployment, and corruption.” She continued, “The U.S. should stay to support other diplomatic missions.”

On the other hand, Jiyad argued that as long as the U.S. and Iran remain at odds, Iraq will be a potential battleground. He contended that it is “very possible” that there will be another attack from Iran-backed groups on U.S. personnel in Iraq. Mohammed seconded this, saying that U.S. presence “provides justification” for such attacks. 

Jiyad argued that the majority of the Iraqi public is not happy about U.S. military presence there. If the U.S. were to leave on bad terms, however, there would be “massive economic repercussions.” He said that American withdrawal is likely and necessary; success, however, “depends on how negotiated the withdrawal is.”

Simon argued in closing that it is difficult to see a future without some kind of American presence in Iraq, but forming a relationship without troops stationed in the country may indeed be the most prudent option.