The US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, refused to compare the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a similar step regarding Iraq, and while he indicated that they are completely different countries, and it is not fair to compare them, he stressed that he will not leave Iraq permanently.
The comments of the US Secretary of Defense came in an interview with "Voice of America" radio, and while the US forces left Iraq at the end of 2011 during the administration of former President Barack Obama, the administration itself returned and deployed about 5,000 soldiers in 2014, within the international coalition to combat ISIS. ISIS in Iraq and Syria, where Austin was the supervisor of the campaign against the organization at the time.
In response to a question about withdrawing from Afghanistan under similar conditions to Iraq when Washington was forced to retreat and send its forces back to fight terrorist groups, Austin said, "First of all, we haven't completely left Iraq. As you know, we've kept personnel in Iraq to focus on training Iraqis. But when you compare the two scenarios, they are completely different worlds. They represent two different peoples... and they face different opponents. So, I don't think it's fair to compare them."
He added that even if there are similarities as there are in every military operation, there is a clear distinction in those operations “based on the threat, based on the forces available, and based on the allies you work with… the people you support.”
Austin led US forces to enter Baghdad in 2003. In February 2008, he took command of the multinational forces in Iraq, and then in September 2010 he was appointed commander-in-chief of the US military forces in Iraq, and served as the twelfth commander of the Central Command of the Military Forces Between 2013 and 2016, he was responsible for US military operations in the Middle East, Central and South Asia.
In July of this year, US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi agreed to end the combat missions of US forces in Iraq by the end of this year, with the US presence limited to a role of training, advice, assistance and intelligence information exchange. Prior to that last year, former US President Donald Trump announced the reduction of the number of US forces in Iraq to 2,500 soldiers.
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