The dramatic move to expel US troops followed nearly two weeks of violence and escalations which culminated in the US assassination of a senior Iranian military commander on Iraqi soil.
Iraq’s parliament was convened for an extraordinary session on Sunday, voting to terminate the operation of the US-led coalition against Daesh (ISIS),* and passing a resolution demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military personnel stationed in the country, including an estimated 5,000 US troops. Here’s what the move means in practice:
US troops were originally withdrawn from Iraq in late 2011, in accordance with the 2008 status of forces agreement and ‘Strategic Framework Pact’, signed over eight years after the 2003 US invasion of the country. Prior to the withdrawal, US troop numbers reached 170,000 in 2007. A large contingent of US Marines and some 4,000-5,000 private security contractors stayed behind at the massive US Embassy in Baghdad, as well as the consulates in the cities of Basra, Mosul and Kirkuk. US troops began returning to Iraq starting in 2014, after Daesh began capturing wide swathes of northern and western Iraq. Initially, Washington limited its involvement to aerial operations (intelligence gathering, bombing), and the deployment of small numbers of troops and advisors to assist Iraqi security forces. The Obama administration beefed up troop numbers to hundreds, and then several thousand, as the conflict continued, with over 5,500 personnel deployed by mid-2016. US troops engaged in multiple operations, although most of the fighting on the ground was left to the Iraq’s security forces, including the Baghdad-allied Shia militias which received support from Iran.