Some Iraqis fear U.S. departure

The Iraqi city of Falluja was one of the first to rise up against U.S. troops when they occupied it in 2003.

But today, some perceptions are changing about who occupies Fallujah.

Most Iraqis oppose foreign influence. Some welcome the U.S. withdrawal. But many, especially in Sunni regions, say they would choose a small American military presence over increased power for pro-Iran militias.

Jabbar Abu Wissam is a local.

Over the past 17 years, he's watched his city fall to the United States, al Qaeda, Islamic State and, most recently, Iraqi forces fighting alongside Iran-backed paramilitaries.

Now, there are concerns aU.S. troop drawdown is creating a security vacuum, making Fallujah more dangerous.


"If the Americans leave, Islamic State will be back, the al-Qaida network, other terrorist organizations. We, the people, will be under the hammer."

His view is shared by many security officials and former fighters in former insurgent strongholds once loyal to Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.

Some critics say Islamic State and the Iran-backed paramilitaries stand to gain most from Washington's troop reduction.

They point to an increase in attacks by Islamic State, and fear the Iran-backed militias will use this violence to justify entrenching themselves.

Last month, Islamic State staged its biggest attack in years with a suicide bombing in Baghdad that killed more than 30.

Sabah Abdel Ghafur sees the American presence as a double-edged sword.


"We like the American presence when they are an instrument to provide us with protection. And we hate the presence of the Americans, and of others, when their objective is to sabotage our country. To destroy our civil society."

Washington's contingent is the largest in the coalition force, which includes 900 troops from other countries. Security analysts estimate there are thousands of Islamic State fighters in Iraq.

The Biden administration has given no indication it intends to significantly reverse the drawdown started under former President Donald Trump. The Pentagon said the Biden administration is conducting a review of numbers and position of troops in Iraq.