WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States and several coalition countries want to maintain a military footprint in Iraq after the eventual defeat of the Islamic State group, a top US general said Tuesday.
Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend said the Iraqi government had expressed an interest in having US and coalition stay in the country.
“Our government is equally interested in that, as are several coalition governments have expressed an interest in joining in that effort,” Townsend said in a video call from Baghdad.
Townsend added that discussions were in the final decision-making stages.
“I would anticipate that there will be a coalition presence here after the defeat of ISIS,” he said.
After then-president Barack Obama completed a long-planned troop withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, the Iraqi security forces quickly weakened under then-prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.
By the time IS attacked in 2014, the military was unable to mount a defense and many units turned and ran, often dumping precious weaponry and vehicles.
“All of us can look back to the end of 2011 when the US and coalition forces left Iraq the last time, and saw what played out in the intervening three years. I don t think we want to replay that,” Townsend said.
Currently, there are more than 5,000 US troops in Iraq, many of them advisors to the Iraqi security services.
Townsend said he anticipated the military footprint to be smaller in the future.