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What if the next president quickly withdraws American troops from Iraq?
Paul Cruickshank is a Fellow at the Center on Law and Security at New York University's School of Law. He previously worked as an investigative journalist in London, reporting on al Qaeda and its European affiliates and was part of the CNN reporting team that covered the London July 7, 2005 attacks. He collaborated closely with Peter Bergen in interviewing acquaintances of Osama bin Laden for Bergen's 2006 oral history "The Osama bin Laden I Know" and worked with CNN on a two-hour Emmy-nominated documentary "In the footsteps of bin Laden." Cruickshank has written about al Qaeda and Islamist groups for a number of publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic and Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. He has provided on-air analysis to CNN, BBC, NBC, CBS, BBC, Fox News and Al Jazeera on national security issues. Cruickshank graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in history, and has a Masters degree with Honors in International Relations from the Paul. H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. He has also worked in the European Parliament in Brussels and at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C.
Paul Cruickshank: I think the precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq would be a disaster, because the success against Al Qaeda is really not a complete success so far. Two thousand and seven was the record year for suicide bombings – over 350 suicide bombings in Iraq in 2007. That’s one suicide bombing attack a day. Ten thousand civilians have been killed in Iraq, and around 900 suicide bombing attacks since the war began. And those have been almost all carried out by Al Qaeda. So this is an organization with a real track record of violence; that in recent years were able to gain control of huge . . . Well not . . . They were in recent years . . . they were able to gain control of significant amount of territory within the country, especially in areas with a mixed demographic population of Shiia and Sunni. Because they’re really able to gain recruits by saying to people in these areas, “Look. The Shiia … are massacring us. You need to join Al Qaeda because we’re the only ones who can fight back against the Shiia …. We’re the only ones who can really protect you from death; from . . . from the activities of the militias of … and other militias operating in Iraq. So that was a real tool for them to gain recruits in 2005 and 2006 and the early part of 2007. Things have been going much less well for Al Qaeda in Iraq since then. They’re not now seen as the protector of Iraqi Sunnis, but really as the oppressor of Iraqi Sunnis. But if U.S. troops would withdraw precipitously from the country, and the civil war again escalates, and you see the sorts of levels of violence you were seeing in 2006, then the real problem . . . we could have a real problem because the . . . that dynamic of Shiia… killing Sunnis might come back into play. And then Al Qaeda again would have a recruiting tool in these demographically mixed parts of Iraq to . . . to again win the support of a local population. You might see other insurgent groups and Sunni tribals again coming up with a marriage of convenience with Al Qaeda; or stop fighting against Al Qaeda in these awakening councils and again ally themselves with Al Qaeda. If you have a larger Shiia-Sunni civil war emerging . . . Because right now moving forward, the U.S. and Israeli arming these tribal groups and Sunni tribal groups around the country, they’re gaining in power. But you also have the Baghdad which is dominated by the Shiia forces of…; of other . . . of other forces in Iraq. So you could have a situation where you have two armed camps and a more organized, higher …civil war emerging with a very quick U.S. withdrawal from the country. Iraq is still like a tinder box right now which can erupt. And if it does erupt and you do have a civil war again blazing in the country, then Al Qaeda can then again be the winners out of that sort of situation because the chaos and bloodshed of 2006 might return. And if it does return, then Al Qaeda again can use that as a recruiting tool – casting themselves as the protector of the local population to gain hold of territory. And if they do gain hold of the territory, there’s a real change they’re gonna use that territory not only to plan operations within Iraq, but also in the Arab world. You saw in 2005…launching attacks in Jordan. killed 60. There are some indications that the plot in the summer of 2007 to launch attacks on a Glasgow airport and also in London had links to Al Qaeda in Iraq became they clearly have out of area ambitions. The leader of the organization, an Egyptian called …, has said he (42:36) doesn’t wanna rest in this jihad until he blows up the White House. There’s a real chance that if Al Qaeda in Iraq were allowed to regenerate a capability in Iraq because of a precipitous U.S. withdrawal, they’ll again gain strength. And they’ll be able to sort of export manpower and finances to Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. We’ve seen increasing synergies between Al Qaeda in Iraq and Al Qaeda central, if you like, in the Afghan-Pakistan border area. The insurgent groups in Iraq in 2006 were raising around $200 million a year through all sorts of nefarious activities – smuggling, kidnappings, those sort of things. Al Qaeda in Iraq had some part of that pie. We don’t know how much – likely several million dollars. Even …in 2005 sent a letter to …asking for money . . . asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars. So Al Qaeda in Iraq could in the future resurface just like Al Qaeda did in the Pakistani-Afghan area.
Recorded on: Jan 14 2008
Al-Qaeda would profit from the violence following a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops, says Cruickshank.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
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