Republican leadership at the RNC Convention this week talked a big game when it comes to "bringing the troops home" - something Trump has been promising since 2016 - but which has not yet ultimately been realized. But can he deliver now as part of a pre-election promise? It looks like the wheels are finally in motion.
Multiple reports citing Pentagon officials on Friday say up to one-third of all American soldiers will permanently return from Iraq over the next two to three months.
This would bring numbers down from 5,200 to about 3,500 according to Pentagon officials. Trump is in the meantime expected to tout an Iraq withdrawal as a success in ending the wasteful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of course, we've been here before. Prior major drawdowns were stymied after ratcheting events over the past year involving Iran. Despite the official US mission still listed as "anti-ISIS operations" it's been pro-Iranian Iraqi militias which have kept US occupying forces busy and on edge.
Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, Doug Bandow, says this time America's presence in Iraq is indeed finally shrinking. Writing in The American Conservative, he holds nothing back in terms of reminding the American public what's at stake:
Hubris, hypocrisy, and sanctimony are all constants of U.S. foreign policy. All came together in George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Most foreign policy analysts, other than the neoconservative war enthusiasts who dominated Bush administration decision-making, recognize that America’s unjustified aggression was a horrid bungle.
The U.S. broke international law, vilified European allies, wrecked Iraq, triggered sectarian war, victimized religious minorities, and empowered Iran. The human toll was hideous: Washington’s war killed thousands of Americans, wounded tens of thousands of U.S. personnel, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, and displaced millions of Iraqis. The invasion spawned murderous al-Qaeda in Iraq, which morphed into the even more brutal Islamic State. Seventeen years later Iraqis are still dealing with their broken, sectarian government, bedeviled by powerful militias allied with Iran.
Bandow underscores that the Pentagon has pushed back at every turn on every attempt of the Trump administration to pull out.
The hotly contested November election, however, presents an opportunity where success in this is much more likely, however.
"The election-minded president desperately needs some foreign policy accomplishments. Three-quarters of Americans say they want the U.S. out of Iraq. It is time to finally and completely terminate George W. Bush’s bloody blunder," Bandow observes. But as we've noted recently, Trump's reasons for being there and "justification" for pullout have been all over the map, to put it mildly:
Trump Touts "Making Very Big Oil Deals" As Condition For Rapid Troop Exit From Iraq https://t.co/RD0ROdf1NY— zerohedge (@zerohedge) August 21, 2020
For all the Trump boasting that he'll be the president to "bring our boys home", he'll need to show his base and the public something concrete toward this noble end, especially given the controversy surrounding his indefinite and ill-defined "oil occupation" in neighboring Syria.