This article examines the 2011 withdrawal of United States’ regular military forces from Iraq in the context of Gen. David H. Petraeus strategy of the ‘surge’ and coopting Sunni fighters against forces aligned with al-Qāʿidah through brokering tribal alliances and adding members of the majālis al-ṣaḥwah (‘awakening councils’) to government pay rosters. It is argued here that Petraeus’s strategy of the ‘surge’ was numerically insignificant and – even if he did order US fighting units back onto the streets – was only partly effective. Various factors and internal Iraqi dynamics played a more decisive role in the outcome of events that ultimately gave the Nuri Maliki government a free hand to work in unofficial cooperation with Shiʿite militias to leave major Sunni neighbourhoods in Baghdad depopulated or abandoned and which transformed the capital into a predominantly Shiʿite city. American withdrawal from Iraq was dictated by the need to redeploy US military personnel and material in Afghanistan, which coincided with a new rhetorical framework under Barack Obama for working with the Islamic world that diverged from George W. Bush’s categorizations under his ‘War on Terror’ as well as the recommendations of the new May 2010 National Security Strategy, which set down the broad outlines for withdrawal.

Despite the formal military withdrawal, a palpable American presence remains in Iraq through private security firms as well as a constellation of various agreements and deals concluded with mega-corporations and other, not to mention the largest US embassy in the world with its various support apparatuses. While the troop withdrawal of regular forces has taken place and permitted redeployment in Afghanistan, the ways which the Americans have devised to remain behind are many and their de facto presence, albeit in more ‘civil’ forms, is still very much a ‘fact on the ground’.


The United States pursues and vouchsafes what it sees as a way to realize its strategic interests around the globe, through the globalization of human civilization in accordance with the American models of democracy and way of life. Similarly, it seeks to legitimize for itself the undertaking of pre-emptive wars or ones ostensibly to deflect supposed and sometimes imagined or entirely fantastic dangers, against individuals, organizations or states, as well as to prevent what it sees as possible threats to its national security. It is of no concern to the United States whether or not it has in place what is necessary to support such actions; nor is it of concern what are the long-term costs and dangers borne by the peoples who live in the theatres of US military conflicts and whether these effectively liquidate their resources and damage their vital interests. This is at the same time as the United States demands from others – the Arabs and Muslims – that they overlook all that ensues from its policies and that they promote its ‘cultures’ as a contemporary alternative to the well-known cultures of the Arabs and Muslims, which are not cultures but rather sanctified creeds in which Muslims have believed since the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

The contemporary alternatives are nothing more than political reforms that the United States demands the countries of the region implement precisely and to the letter. Among the requirements imposed is the deconstruction and dissolution of traditional Islam and its restructuring as a ‘contemporary Islam’ or ‘civil Islam’ or adoption of ‘moderate Islam’ or ‘secular Islam’. This means substituting original Islam as derived from the Qurʾān and the normative practice and teachings – sunnah – of the Prophet, which imposes at its core jihad against unbelievers and polytheists as well as wars against aggressors as a legal obligation of the shariʿah. It means disengaging and desisting from such obligations by adopting any of the contemporary ‘formulations’ of Islam just indicated. Accordingly, the so-called ‘War on Terror’ (for which read ‘War on Islam’) targeted Islam as a religion first by going after fighting Islamist movements or what are often known as salafist jihadist trends, as organizational structures, and then subsequently targeting the Islamic religion conceptually and existentially.

Read full text here  The American withdrawal from Iraq ways and means for remaining behind


American withdrawal from Iraq 2011

Gen. David H. Petraeus’s

strategy and ‘surge’

US National Security Strategy


Sunni forces

majālis al-ṣaḥwah

Shiʿite militias


US military strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan


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