Baghdad, MINA – The United States on Wednesday announced that it will reduce its presence in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,000 troops this month, formalising a move that had been long expected.
“We continue to develop our Iraqi partners’ capacity program and allow us to reduce our footprint in Iraq,” Marine General Frank McKenzie, Head of US Central Command, said during his visit to Iraq, AlJazeera reported.
The US and Iraq in June affirmed their commitment to a reduction of American troops in the coming months.
The US has about 5,200 troops deployed in Iraq to fight the armed group ISIL (ISIS). Officials in the US-led coalition say Iraqi forces are now largely capable of handling ISIS remnants on their own.
Late Tuesday, a senior Trump administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters on the Air Force One plane that such an announcement was coming and that an announcement of an additional troop withdrawal from Afghanistan could also be expected in the coming days.
The US invaded Iraq in 2003 overthrew President Saddam Hussein and left in 2011, but returned in 2014 after ISIS took control of much of the country.
“In recognition of the great progress Iraqi forces have made and in consultation and coordination with the Iraqi government and our coalition partners, the United States has decided to reduce our troop presence in Iraq from about 5,200 to 3,000 troops during September,” McKenzie said, according to excerpt from his remarks given by his office.
“The remaining US troops will continue to assist Iraqi security forces against ISIS,” McKenzie said.
“The US decision is clear evidence of our continued commitment to the ultimate goal, namely Iraqi security forces capable of preventing the rise of ISIS and securing Iraqi sovereignty without foreign assistance,” he added.
“The journey is difficult, the sacrifices are great, but the progress is significant,” he said.
In 2016, Trump campaigned to end the US “endless war” but his troops remained in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, albeit in smaller numbers.
“We are preventing America from a new war and we are bringing our troops home, we are taking them home from all these faraway places,” Trump said in a presidential campaign speech four years ago.
“We’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars, and what do we get out of it?” Trump said.
Last month, while meeting with the Iraqi prime minister, Trump reiterated his pledge to withdraw the US troops still in Iraq. (T/R7/RE1)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)