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Has the Global War on Terror quietly ended with US pull out from Iraq?

Airmen of the US Air Force's 779th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron deliver equipment to Iraq via a C-130 Hercules (Image Courtesy: Twitter/@USAirForce)

After Afghanistan, most US forces have now pulled out of Iraq after the global coalition to fight the Islamic State for Syria and Iraq (ISIS) wound up its operations late last month.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced last month that only US advisers will remain who will assist local security forces to combat ISIS. 

“The Coalition have fully completed their combat role after transfer of personnel and material outside Iraq. Going forward, their role will be to advise and assist our security forces per the outcome of the Strategic Dialogue,” Kadhimi said in a tweet, the website Rudaw.net reported.

Analysts say that with the pull-out of US forces, the Global War on Terror (GWOT) has entered its terminal phase. GWOT was started by former US President George Bush soon after the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers in New York in 2001. A major US-led coalition was strung up GWOT with Afghanistan and Iraq as the epicentres.  Washington has infamously pulled out from Iraq in August leaving a power vacuum that has been filled by the Taliban. The coalition specially targets Al Qaeda and later ISIS. The US military focus has subsequently shifted to the Indo-Pacific from West Asia amid the rise of China.

The US withdrawal took place following a string of meetings between Iraqi and US officials over the last two years.  

“We thank the leadership of the Coalition, it’s members, our partners and neighbours in combating Daish and reaffirm that our security forces stand ready to defend our people,” he added. 

The Coalition was formally established in October 2014, after ISIS took control of vast swathes of territories in Iraq and Syria. Consisting of 84 nations, the US-led Coalition’s mission has been “degrading and ensuring Daesh’s enduring defeat,” it says on its website, using Arabic acronym for the extremist group. 

Strategic Dialogue between the US and Iraq began under the administration of former President Donald Trump in June 2020, with the first round of talks under Joe Biden’s administration being held in April. In the last round, a joint statement from both countries said that the US will move its remaining combat troops out of Iraq. 

The Coalition’s shift to high-level advisory work comes as ISIS threatens the security of the country, launching attacks on Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Tens of members from both forces have been killed by the group’s militants recently, especially in areas disputed by Erbil and Baghdad. 

Analysts point out that after the US pull-out, neighbouring Iran could play a more assertive role both for countering ISIS as well as for pushing residual American forces from its periphery.

Also Read: 5 Kurdish security members killed in IS attack in Iraq