On Thursday, the US-led anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria released a report that says the Iraqi military is incapable of operating on its own. The report comes as the US is planning to formally end its combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year but wants to keep troops in the country under a training and advisory role.
The report from Operation Inherent Resolve’s (OIR) Inspector General says ISIS attacks are down about 20 percent from the year before. But when conducting operations against ISIS, the Iraqi military “consistently requested Coalition support for airstrikes,” and the report concluded that the “Iraqi Partner Forces remain dependent on Coalition support.”
President Biden announced in July that the US would end its combat mission in Iraq. There are currently about 2,500 US troops in Iraq, but reports at the time of Biden’s announcement said that the number is not expected to change even after the US formally changes its role in the country.
One reason the US doesn’t want to leave Iraq is that forces based in the country support US troops in Syria. The OIR report said the Kurdish-led forces that the US supports in Syria are also reliant on the coalition for intelligence gathering purposes.
In Syria, the report said ISIS activity reduced significantly, coming down by 86 percent from the year before. The US presence in Syria is more about putting pressure on the Syrian government than fighting ISIS.
In both countries, the US could leave, and there would be plenty of forces capable of fighting ISIS despite what the OIR report said. In Iraq, the Shia militias that the US has bombed in recent years are sworn enemies of ISIS and can work with the government in Baghdad. In Syria, the Syrian government currently does most of the fighting against ISIS.