U.S. Troops Stop Fighting ISIS, Brace For Further Retaliation From Iran After Soleimani Killing
The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria over the weekend stopped its longtime effort to fight ISIS, as American troops prepared for further retaliation from Iran over last week’s drone strike that killed top general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.
Military officials cited recent attacks on American and Iraqi bases.
“We remain resolute as partners of the government of Iraq and the Iraqi people that have welcomed us into their country to help defeat ISIS,” the statement read. Using the Arabic name for the Islamic State, it added, “We remain ready to return our full attention and efforts back to our shared goal of ensuring the lasting defeat of Daesh.”
Approximately 5,000 troops in Iraq and many others in Syria are now reportedly working on strengthening their military outposts rather than focusing on training.
Since Soleimani’s killing, tensions between the U.S. and Iran have escalated significantly. The country has vowed to enrich its nuclear capabilities and protests in Tehran have grown increasingly violated, with several people injured and as many as 50 reported dead at Soleimani’s funeral procession on Tuesday. President Donald Trump vowed to attack Iran’s cultural sites if the country attempted to retaliate to the strike on Soleimani in any way.
American troops’ decision to stop fighting the Islamic State now paves the way for the terrorist organization to expand its operations in Iraq and Syria, much like it did after the Trump administration decided last fall to abandon Kurdish forces in Northern Syria. The betrayal of the Kurds, a key U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS, emboldened Turkey to invade the region and drew condemnation from both liberal and conservative figures who said Russia would likely take advantage of this development as well.
Joshua Geltzer, who previously served as the senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council under Barack Obama, was one of several prominent figures to blast the White House’s decision to halt counterterrorism operations in the Middle East after Soleimani’s killing.
The Trump administration that promised to “annihilate” ISIS has now stopped operations against ISIS to protect US troops from Iranian retaliation…for the Trump administration’s own intemperate action.
So Trump stops addressing an existing threat to deal with one of his making. https://t.co/V0N5sm5Ec6
— Joshua A. Geltzer (@jgeltzer) January 5, 2020