Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to support our work—that time is now.

Our mission is simple: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

But without the support of our readers, this model does not work and we simply won’t survive. It’s that simple.
We must meet our Mid-Year Campaign goal but we need you now.

Please, support independent journalism today.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Aftermath of a U.S. airstrike in central Mosul, Iraq on July 9, 2017. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

A billowing smoke cloud rises over a neighborhood in Mosul, Iraq immediately after a U.S. airstrike on July 9, 2017. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

'Reducing Troops Not the Same as Ending Wars': Peace Activists Say Trump Drawdown in Iraq Not Nearly Enough

"Trump is trying to convince voters that is now following through on a campaign promise that he failed to keep in four years and will not fulfill with half measures," says CodePink's Medea Benjamin. 

Brett Wilkins

The U.S. military's announcement Wednesday that thousands of troops will soon withdraw from Iraq was met with skepticism by peace activists, who were quick to note that a reduction in troop strength is not the same thing as ending the war. 

U.S. Central Command (CETCOM) commander Gen. Frank McKenzie said Wednesday that the number of U.S. troops in Iraq will be reduced from 5,200 to 3,000 during the month of September, but critics said this should not be seen as President Donald Trump fulfilling his campaign promise in 2016 to end the nation's wasteful overseas wars. 

"This reduced footprint allows us to continue advising and assisting our Iraqi partners in rooting out the final remnants of ISIS in Iraq and ensuring its enduring defeat," McKenzie said in a statement, referring to the militant group Islamic State. 

McKenzie added that the drawdown decision is the result of U.S. "confidence in the Iraqi security forces' increased ability to operate independently." 

"[Trump's] promise was not to REDUCE the U.S. footprint but to get U.S. boots OUT. Period. He should make good on that promise by bringing all the troops home."
—Medea Benjamin, CodePink

The decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq has long been expected. The Trump administration also plans to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan from 8,600 to 4,500, the lowest number since the earliest days of the 19-year war. 

At the height of the Iraq War during the George W. Bush administration, there were over 160,000 U.S. troops in the country. U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan peaked (pdf) during President Barack Obama's surge in 2011, when there were over 100,000 American personnel there. It was the Obama administration that first withdrew most U.S. troops from the Iraq War in 2011, but then resumed fighting there in 2014 as leaders of the anti-ISIS coalition.

Peace activists reacted to Wednesday's news of the drawndown by the Trump administration with skepticism. In an email to Common Dreams, CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin said that while her group "welcomes" the troop reduction as a move in the proper direction, the ultimate goal should be an end to the war that began in 2003. 

"Any time U.S. troops are brought home from ill-conceived overseas adventures is a step in the right direction," wrote Benjamin. "But the American people want an END to these endless wars, not a reduction."  

Benjamin noted that the Iraqi parliament "voted for a complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops from their country" earlier this year. 

Benjamin continued: "Trump's announcement, and the timing of it, is a recognition in this election season that the American people are sick and tired of two decades of destructive, costly, and senseless wars in the Middle East. Trump is trying to convince voters that is now following through on a campaign promise that he failed to keep in four years and will not fulfill with half measures."

"His promise was not to REDUCE the U.S. footprint but to get U.S. boots out. Period," she added. "He should make good on that promise by bringing all the troops home."

Vincent Emanuele, a former Marine and Iraq War veteran formerly with Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), told Common Dreams that "the Iraqi people are still enduring decisions made in Washington, D.C. 16 years after the war [began]."  

"Who gets to make these decisions?" he asked. "Not only do the Iraqi people not get a say, people in the U.S. also don't get a say. Elites in the U.S. make these decisions and they're not representative of what people in either country want." 

Trita Parsi, co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, tweeted that "ending wars and withdrawing troops are two different things." 

"While bringing the troops home is the right decision, Trump is at the same time escalating tensions in the region and by that making an end to the war more difficult to achieve," he wrote. 

On Tuesday, Trump—who is reeling from allegations that he called U.S. troops killed and wounded in the nation's many wars "losers" and "suckers"—lashed out at his own military commanders, who he accused of "wanting to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that the make bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy." 

While Trump is the first president since Jimmy Carter to not start a new U.S. war, he has fulfilled his campaign promise to "bomb the shit out of" ISIS and "take out their families"—a war crime. During his administration civilian casualties have soared in almost all of the at least seven countries under U.S. attack as he has loosened rules of engagement meant to protect civilians and stepped up bombing and drone strikes.

It is impossible to say precisely how many civilians have died during the course of the ongoing U.S.-led so-called "War on Terror." The Brown University Costs of War Project estimates at least 800,000 people including 335,000 civilians have died during the war, while Physicians for Social Responsibility says (pdf) at least 1.3 million—and perhaps as many as 2 million—people have been directly or indirectly killed in just three countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

In the war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, entire cities, towns, and villages—including the de facto ISIS capitals of Mosul and Raqqa—were reduced to ruins by ferocious coalition air and ground attacks that left thousands of civilians dead and many thousands more displaced. 

On Tuesday, Common Dreams reported that the Costs of War Project estimated that as many as 59 million people in eight countries have been displaced by the war since 2001. 

U.S. airstrikes in Iraq continued even as CENTCOM announced the drawdown.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.


80+ US Prosecutors Vow Not to Be Part of Criminalizing Abortion Care

"Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice," says a joint statement signed by 84 elected attorneys. "Prosecutors should not be part of that."

Kenny Stancil ·

Progressives Rebuke Dem Leadership as Clyburn Dismisses Death of Roe as 'Anticlimactic'

"The gap between the Democratic leadership, and younger progressives on the question of 'How Bad Is It?' is just enormous."

Julia Conley ·

In 10 Key US Senate Races, Here's How Top Candidates Responded to Roe Ruling

While Republicans unanimously welcomed the Supreme Court's rollback of half a century of reproductive rights, one Democrat said "it's just wrong that my granddaughter will have fewer freedoms than my grandmother did."

Brett Wilkins ·

Sanders Says End Filibuster to Combat 'Outrageous' Supreme Court Assault on Abortion Rights

"If Republicans can end the filibuster to install right-wing judges to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democrats can and must end the filibuster, codify Roe v. Wade, and make abortion legal and safe," said the Vermont senator.

Jake Johnson ·

Patients in Trigger-Ban States Immediately Denied Abortion Care in Post-Roe US

Some people scheduled to receive abortions were turned away within minutes of the right-wing Supreme Court's decision to strike down Roe v. Wade.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo