A ceremony marks the end of the US military mission in Iraq, December 15, 2011. Photo: AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – American troops will remain in Iraq “as long as needed” to help stabilize the country, the spokesperson for the US-led coalition to defeat ISIS said on Sunday.
“We’ll keep troops there as long as we think they’re needed,” Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan told a press conference in Abu Dhabi, as reported by Reuters.
“The main reason, after ISIS is defeated militarily, is the stabilization efforts and we still need to be there for that, so that’s one of the reasons we’ll maintain a presence,” he added.
The Iraqi government announced the defeat of ISIS in Iraq in December 2017, approximately five months after the US-led coalition captured the militant group’s stronghold of Mosul.
However, there have since been several ISIS attacks on villages and security forces in Diyala, Saladin, Kirkuk, and elsewhere, indicating remnants of the group have been allowed to regroup in some areas.
Ryan said there are roughly 5,200 US troops currently stationed in Iraq, but the number could fall once other NATO member states send their militaries to assist in training the Iraqi army.
“Possibly, there could be a drawdown, it just depends on when NATO comes in and they help train the forces as well,” Ryan said.
The US also has approximately 2,000 troops stationed in Syria, working alongside the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to clear the last pockets of ISIS resistance in border areas between Syria and Iraq.
“We’re starting to see a lot of collaboration between the SDF and ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) because it used to be that they would just come to the coalition, but now, we have them talking to each other as well,” Ryan said.
With the approval of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, along with the US-led coalition, the Iraqi military has carried out several airstrikes on ISIS targets inside Syria since last year.
SDF operations to defeat the militant group have suffered delays due to “hundreds of explosive devices” planted there by ISIS, Ryan added.