Abu Arkan Ibrahim picked up a rifle and joined the Iraqi insurgency against U.S. troops when they occupied his hometown of Fallujah in 2003. He was badly burned in the fighting. Now, he fears the departure of the Americans he once battled.

Over the past 17 years, the municipal employee has watched his city fall to the United States, al-Qaida, the Islamic State group and, most recently, Iraqi forces fighting alongside Iran-backed paramilitaries. Ibrahim said the presence of U.S. troops in recent years helped suppress remaining IS militants and rein in the Iran-backed militias — mutual foes accused by Iraqi officials of attacking locals. The U.S. troop drawdown is creating a security vacuum, Ibrahim said, making Fallujah more dangerous.

"I’d rather have the Americans here than the alternatives,” the 37-year old said.