first published on January 10, 2019 by Will
Iraqi media is reporting massive US troop buildups just west of Baghdad and inside Fallujah and Ramadi, just one day after Secretary of State Pompeo’s surprise visit to Iraq.
The purpose of the US troop movements isn’t clear at this time, but is likely linked to orders given by Pompeo during his visit. The local news sources claimed that US forces originating from Baghdad were securing roads and population centers in Anbar, specifically Fallujah and Ramadi, followed by large convoys of military equipment.
Additional reports are stating that a massive US troop buildup is taking place at the K1 military base in Kirkuk. Kirkuk is strategically significant because of its oil reserves, airport, and forward posturing along the Iranian border. Control of Kirkuk is ever-disputed. The Kurds took it from ISIS, and then the Iraqi government took it from various Kurdish forces. Some reports indicate that these heightened US troop numbers are a result of the withdrawal from Syria, while others are saying that the US is there to help diffuse tension between Erbil and Baghdad as the future of Kirkuk is discussed.
A number of unconfirmed assumptions could be made from the heightened US activity in the Anbar region.
First, Iraqi President Barham Salih requested Pompeo to maintain US presence in Iraq on the eve of Trump’s withdrawal from Syria and drawdown in Afghanistan. Salih fears the inevitable power vacuum the pullout will cause and wants to avoid a disaster similar to the one caused by Obama’s withdrawal, which spurred the Islamic State’s rise to power in the first place.
While ISIS is still technically defeated in Iraq, signs of jihadist resurgence are showing in the Sunni majority Anbar province. This strong posturing of US troops in the area may be a show of force by Pompeo to reassure President Salih that the US is committed to maintaining Iraq’s security.
Another possibility is that the US troops are there to secure the travel routes that will be taken by the US forces withdrawing from Syria along Highway 1 out of the at Tanf area and the troops using Highway 12 to egress from the MERV after the Hajin pocket is cleared of the remaining ISIS resistance.
To further confound with unfounded assumptions, we are receiving wholly unconfirmed reports from our own sources that a massive buildup of US Special Operations Forces is taking place in the MERV for a final, epic operation to crush the remaining Islamic State resistance in the Hajin pocket. This heightened activity could be the logistical leg work to prepare for that onslaught.
Still more reports suggest that the US forces are leaving Salahuddin province to set up new permanent US bases in Kirkuk, Fallujah, and Ramadi to not only counter IS resurgence, but to stifle the Iranian-led Shia militias looking to further assert their dominance in the country.
The following video is a stunning report recorded by Gabriel Chaim and narrated by BBC Middle East Correspondent Quentin Sommerville, giving us a close look at the current fighting in the Hajin pocket.