Biden Takes Two Paths to Wind Down Iraq and Afghan Wars

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The differences successful however President Biden has handled the wars connection penetration not lone into America’s strategical interests, but besides successful however helium views the 2 conflicts.

President Biden gathering  with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi of Iraq successful  the Oval Office connected  Monday. Mr. Biden said the United States would extremity  its combat ngo  determination   by the extremity  of the year.
Credit...Tom Brenner for The New York Times

Annie KarniEric Schmitt

July 26, 2021, 6:37 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — When it comes to winding down America’s wars, the opposition betwixt President Biden’s handling of Iraq and Afghanistan is increasing sharper.

At the White House connected Monday, Mr. Biden promised Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi of Iraq that the United States would extremity its combat ngo determination by the extremity of the year. “We’re not going to be, by the extremity of the year, successful a combat mission,” helium said.

But the president besides made it wide that astir of the 2,500 American troops presently stationed successful Iraq would remain, simply reclassified connected insubstantial into advisory and grooming roles. The United States’ role, helium said, would beryllium “to proceed to train, to assist, to help, and to woody with ISIS arsenic it arrives.”

In Afghanistan, however, the United States is making a acold cleaner break, pulling retired troops and formally ending its subject ngo by the extremity of August. Mr. Biden has besides declared that the ngo of denying terrorists a haven successful the country had agelong agone been achieved and that leaving forces connected the crushed was nary longer worthy the outgo of humor and money.

The antithetic ways that the president has handled the 2 wars, which began aft the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, connection penetration not lone into America’s strategical interests, but besides into however helium views the 2 conflicts.

In pulling retired of Afghanistan, Mr. Biden said determination was nary longer immoderate justification to judge that the United States could crook the state into a unchangeable democracy. But successful the struggle successful Iraq, different decades-old warfare that galore presumption arsenic much costly than the 1 successful Afghanistan, helium sees an American beingness arsenic necessary, astatine slightest successful part, to ward disconnected the power of Iran and the continuing menace of the Islamic State.

President Donald J. Trump besides created governmental unit for Mr. Biden to extricate the United States from Afghanistan. Biden medication officials said they were committed to honoring an statement the Trump medication had signed with the Taliban successful February 2020 for U.S. troops to propulsion retired of Afghanistan. Mr. Trump made nary specified pact astir a withdrawal of forces from Iraq.

The White House property secretary, Jen Psaki, declined to specify the fig of troops that would stay successful Iraq. “The numbers volition beryllium driven by what is needed for the ngo implicit time,” she said.

That ngo is strategically important to the United States. Even though the Islamic State’s carnal caliphate is agelong gone, subject counterterrorism officials estimation that the militant radical inactive has 8,000 to 16,000 guerrilla fighters operating successful Iraq and Syria.

The American forces successful Iraq besides enactment astir 900 U.S. troops successful neighboring Syria, wherever the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces proceed to transportation retired crushed operations against the Islamic State successful the country’s northeast. If the United States were to retreat from Iraq, it would marque supporting the Syria ngo overmuch much difficult.

Many Biden medication officials are besides haunted by the failed withdrawal from Iraq successful 2011. The United States was pulled backmost successful 3 years aboriginal aft James Foley, an American journalist, was beheaded by the Islamic State successful August 2014 for a propaganda video and the radical seized the bluish 3rd of the country.

As caput of American forces successful Iraq, General Lloyd J. Austin III oversaw the 2011 withdrawal mission. He present serves arsenic Mr. Biden’s defence secretary. Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council connected Foreign Relations, said a reluctance to exit Iraq altogether “might beryllium a hangover from the Obama determination to permission lone to person to re-enter.”

And portion American officials importune they are not keeping troops successful Iraq to combat Iran oregon Iran-backed militias, the subject beingness determination besides allows the United States to show Iran much closely. The drone onslaught that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a almighty Iranian commander, for instance, was launched from Al Asad Air Base successful occidental Iraq.

“U.S. troops successful Iraq assistance successful a governmental consciousness equilibrium oregon incorporate Iran, which is simply a superior determination threat,” said James F. Jeffrey, a erstwhile U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

The incentives to stay, combined with the deficiency of governmental unit astatine location to leave, made Mr. Biden’s announcement connected Monday mostly a acceptable portion of diplomatic theater that did small much than formalize the existent authorities of play.

“The nonsubjective of some sides is for thing to alteration and to support astir 2,500 U.S. troops determination that would bash things they are already doing,” said Sarhang Hamasaeed, the manager of Middle East programs astatine the United States Institute of Peace. “That’s supporting Iraqi information forces, but not prosecute successful combat.”

U.S. troops nary longer travel Iraqi forces hunting remaining pockets of Islamic State fighters. Still, experts successful the portion said the announcement connected Monday suited some the Iraqi and the American governments successful their argumentation objectives, adjacent if it did small to alteration the concern connected the crushed successful Iraq.

“The Iraqi authorities tin accidental we’re little reliant connected these foreigners, and the Biden medication tin constituent to this arsenic different illustration of however it is dialing down America’s engagement successful these semipermanent conflicts successful the Middle East,” Mr. Haass said.

Indeed, Mr. al-Kadhimi has been nether unit from Iraq’s Shiite governmental parties to extremity the U.S. ngo successful Iraq altogether ever since the onslaught successful January 2020 that killed General Suleimani and an Iraqi militia commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

“You permission Iraq, Iran volition spell deeper and deeper and predominate the state, giving them power implicit strategical vigor reserves,” Mr. Hamasaeed said. “That’s not bully for the planetary system and stableness and efforts to curb Iran’s docket successful the region.”

Mr. Biden has a agelong past with Iraq.

But the clip Mr. Biden visited Iraq successful November 2011, it was his seventh travel arsenic vice president and his 16th during his vocation successful politics.

As some a legislator and vice president, helium staked retired a presumption arsenic an influential dependable connected Iraq policy, cultivating adjacent relationships with its governmental leaders. He developed a seemingly encyclopedic cognition of the country’s tribal authorities and speaks with relish astir its tangled feuds and rivalries.

During the 2020 campaign, Mr. Biden falsely claimed that helium had ever opposed subject involution determination from “the infinitesimal it started,” contempt voting to authorize subject unit successful 2002. In reality, helium was a professional of the Bush administration’s handling of the struggle but did not reason the involution from the beginning. His run aboriginal clarified to The Washington Post that helium “misspoke.”

“He opposed the mode we went to warfare and the mode the warfare was being carried out,” Antony J. Blinken, present caput of state, said during the campaign. “He has for galore years called his ballot a mistake and takes afloat work for it.”

In aboriginal 2009, President Barack Obama assigned Mr. Biden the Iraq portfolio, a determination that raised eyebrows due to the fact that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton seemed similar the much evident candidate. At the time, Mr. Biden’s lad Joseph R. Biden III, known arsenic Beau, was serving successful Iraq with the Delaware National Guard. His apical commandant was Mr. Austin.

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