Will a Major US Disengagement in the Middle East Lead to Conflicts Resulting in More Refugees and Migration?

By LTC Ali AL-Kaabi, UAE Air Force, US Central Command: Strategy Plans and Policy Directorate; Combined Strategic Analysis Group
07 May 2021


Recent indicators stress a likely US gradual disengagement from CENTCOM’s area of responsibility. This likely US disengagement would affect key areas including national/regional security, the change in migration patterns, the affected countries’ economic development, and trade. Disengagement is likely to deteriorate relationships and cause instability, while troop withdrawal would allow more terrorist activity and conflicts.

Key Points:

  • The US sent troops to Middle Eastern countries to enhance peace and political stability, yet generally, conditions have not improved.
  • Internal wars continue in fragile states such as Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen as those countries do not contribute significantly to the fight against terrorism, extremism, and insurgency.
  • As those countries depend on US troops for security, a US withdrawal would lead to weaker host-nation forces, allowing Daesh, Al-Qaida, and other terrorist groups room to grow.
  • Increased migration from Middle Eastern countries to Europe, through Turkey, creates security concerns and potential terrorist activity.
  • The Syrian and Afghan conflicts created the most refugees in the world. Despite periodic breaks in the fighting, most of these refugees remained displaced for years.
  • A resurgence in terrorist activities will likely increase refugees and transnational migration, and generate devastating human conditions.
  • Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen still very much need continued support from the international community, including the US and NATO, in both war and peacetime.

Read the complete paper here.

The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of a number of international officers within the Combined Strategic Analysis Group (CSAG) and do not necessarily reflect the views of United States Central Command, not of the nations represented within the CSAG or any other governmental agency.