‘I anticipate America will be in Iraq for many years,’ says former Coalition spox

"America does not want to begin a war with Iran and America respects the sovereignty of Iraq but also America must defend its own troops. So this is a difficult position,” said Retired US Army Col. Myles B. Caggins III.
Retired US army Col. Myles B. Caggins III. (Photo: Kurdistan24)
Retired US army Col. Myles B. Caggins III. (Photo: Kurdistan24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan24) – Retired US Army Col. Myles B. Caggins III, a former spokesman for the US-led Coalition in Iraq, on Saturday discussed with Kurdistan24 the future of the US military presence in Iraq.

“I anticipate America will be in Iraq for many years. The relationship between the United States and Iraq is one that involves not only the military, but the relationship involves economic ties and because of that reason, Baghdad and Washington will continue to find a way for American troops to remain present in Iraq,” he said.

Read More: US will not tolerate attack on US forces in Syria: former Coalition spokesperson

Nevertheless, he said it is “a difficult time for the United States, as it is making important decisions about what is happening in Iraq and Syria and also America's support of Israel’s war in Gaza.”

Aside from his previous service in the US military, Caggins is also a senior fellow at the New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy.

 “The American forces came to Iraq and Syria to defeat ISIS in 2014 and now there are pressure and attacks, more than 100 attacks on US and Coalition forces that are inside Iraqi bases and Kurdish bases.”

He said the Iran-backed armed groups are trying to drive America outside of Iraq and Syria.

“The attacks of the militias are already a threat to Iraq security. Not very far away from your [Kurdistan24] studio there was a ballistic missile a couple of years ago, and in recent weeks, the militias have used special, very sophisticated drones to attack the Erbil base and those attacks at the Erbil base are now beginning to cause fear among the commercial airlines.”

Read More: Attack on Erbil Air Base leaves no casualties or damage: Pentagon official

“That disruption can impact the economy of Kurdistan Region and also the reputation of Kurdistan. So it is very important that all of the security forces continue to work together to stop these outlaw militia groups. The Iranian-backed militia groups must be stopped.”

On Thursday, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani stated that the Iraqi Government is actively engaged in efforts to conclude the presence of soldiers from a coalition led by the United States in the country.

As US military leaders in Iraq have said on various occasions, the military is in Iraq at the invitation of the country’s government, yet this is believed to mark the first such time that senior Iraqi leadership has voiced a coherent intention to expel the Americans.

Nevertheless, Caggins underlined that the “International Coalition to defeat ISIS remains important for Iraq’s security and global prestige. In recent weeks, the prime minister of Spain and, separately, the Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of State traveled to Iraq to reaffirm their nations’ commitment to a secure, stable, and sovereign Iraq.”

Read More: Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visits Iraq

“If the foreign forces leave Iraq, it will affect Iraq's security and economy. The foreign forces have been an important group to help the Iraqi Security Forces and Peshmerga come together for coordination,” he added, while noting “The foreign forces have provided training for Iraqi troops and Kurdish troops and the foreign forces help the international business investors have more confidence in the security of the region.”

“[I]t is important for foreign forces to remain until Iraq can demonstrate the political stability that it needs to be a strong nation and a secure nation. America does not want to begin a war with Iran and America respects the sovereignty of Iraq but also America must defend its own troops. So this is a difficult position.”

Caggins later implied that the weak military response from the Americans can be attributed to the fact that the armed groups have not killed any US soldier in their campaign. “But if an American soldier is killed, I believe the political response from Washington will be to have more attacks on the Iranian backed militias.”

“If the Iranian-backed militias drive the U.S. military out of Iraq, it is likely that the International advisors from the anti-ISIS coalition would depart. Currently, the U.S. military provides most of the logistics and communications infrastructure for the entire Coalition and the NATO Mission in Iraq.”

On Syria, Caggins said the situation is different. “Of course, American troops are in Syria and the Iranians, the Syrians, the Russians, and Turkey want America out of Syria, and in Washington [...], many decisions are made based on politics. 

While the US military is not in Syria at the official invitation of the Syrian Government, the two countries ceased diplomatic ties in 2012, and the US supports the recently renamed Democratic Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria (DAANES) in its fight against ISIS in the country.

He continued, “We will have President Biden running against President Trump or another Republican challenger. The opposition to Biden will be pressuring Biden to have American troops leave Syria,” he said. “The Americans continue to help Iraq with security. Every year, America provides $1 billion in funding for the Iraqi Security Forces and the Peshmerga."

Editing by Dastan Muwaffaq