“Armed forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq,” explained President Barack Obama while announcing that he was sending up to 300 military “advisers” back to the country from which the United States officially withdrew its armed forces in December 2011. (The New York Times reports that the U.S. embassy and consulates in Iraq employ about 5,500 Americans, a mix of military personnel, contractors, and diplomats).
If it seems difficult for American soldiers to leave Iraq once and for all, it may be because the United States has always liked to keep military personnel stationed in vanquished countries long after the battles ended.
Indeed, the U.S. armed forces currently station tens of thousands of soldiers in dozens of countries including Italy (which surrendered to the Allies in World War II in September 1943), Germany (May 1945), Japan (August 1945), and South Korea (where fighting ended in July 1953).
In the latest accounting from the Defense Manpower Data Center, the United States has about 1.35 million total active military, including about 160,000 troops stationed overseas.