Six months ago, a US airstrike hit Baghdad which prompted Iraqis to demand that all US troops be sent home. A US general responsible for the Middle East is suggesting keeping the troops smaller, although still having a significant US presence in the area.
According to AP News, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, had a meeting with Iraq's prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. In the meeting, he expressed that Iraqis are okay with a continued US presence with coalition troops in Iraq. One of the reasons behind this is to keep the Islamic State militants from causing trouble and seizing territory from the Iraqis again.
McKenzie also added that Iraqies are open in moving ahead and solving all military concerns with the US. He stressed that he is confident with his assessment, and it would be too premature for the US to leave now.
Last January, a US drone strike close to the Baghdad airport was responsible for the death of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. This initiated a series of demands by Iraqi lawmakers with impetus by Shiite factions to pass a nonbinding resolution to request all the coalition forces to leave the country, according to New York Times,
The killing of the Iraqi General was followed by a retaliatory strike by Iran on January 8. The Iraqi missile attack on the al-Asad air base in Iraq resulted in severe shell shock that cause brain injuries on a large number of America soldiers.
Later, the US let loose a series of airstrikes as payback for the missile strike last January. Target of the US fighters were five sites with association to Iranian-backed Shiite militia members, who are suspected to have fired the rockets striking al-Asad air base.
President Donald Trump has made it clear that he vowed to bring all American's fighting endless wars home. Trump made a veiled threat directed at Iran that it will get hammered by a strong US response should any American get hurt in Iraq. Most of the Iranian-backed militias are targeting coalition and US soldiers in Iraq.
In 2003, the US invasion of Iraq began but eventually ceased in 2011. When the Islamic State was attacking areas of Iraq and taking over as cited in Business Insider, US troops returned.
McKenzie's last visit in Iraq was in early February to meet with Iraqi leaders and discuss their next movements. Among their concerns are the protests that are getting worse, with rockets hitting the American embassy in the region.
Since al-Kadhimi took the position in May, there have improvements in the tense political atmosphere. But the Al-Fatah bloc is calling for the US to leave while talks between Iraq and the US is ongoing, according to VOA News.
For the meantime, Iraqi prime minister promise to safeguard American troops and US installations from assault. McKenzie added that it will be hard not to support the Iraqi prime minister with the problems now.
For now, about 5000 to 6000 US troops are in Iraq but that number will change. The number of the troops who will be left are yet to be determined.