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US to Reduce Troop Levels in Iraq

By Sirwan Kajjo August 30, 2020

The United States is planning to reduce its troop levels in Iraq, President Donald Trump and other U.S. officials said.

Trump tweeted Saturday that the U.S. is "planning to cut" its military presence in Iraq, without giving further details.

The president's tweet included a link to an article reporting that U.S. forces in the region would decrease from 5,200 to 3,500, a figure that was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. military officials also have confirmed the planned reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq.

"We are reducing troop levels as the Iraqi capability to defeat ISIS remnants and prevent its resurgence improves," said Pentagon spokesperson Commander Jessica L. McNulty, using an acronym for the Islamic State (IS) terror group.

"Any reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq will be determined through careful coordination with the government of Iraq, as well as with our coalition and NATO partners, and calibrated to our shared security interests and progress in the campaign against ISIS," McNulty said in a statement to VOA.

Iraqi officials haven't yet made any announcements about the troop reduction.

Discussions between the two countries about the future of U.S. forces in Iraq began earlier this year. The matter was also discussed during last week's visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi to the White House.

Experts said after defeating IS in major Iraqi cities, including Mosul, the Iraqi military has proved its effectiveness in combating the militants.

"The Iraqi armed forces are able to manage the military operations on the ground," said Hussein Ali Allawi, professor of national security at Nahrain University in Baghdad. "But the role of the U.S.-led international coalition remains important for close air support, deep reconnaissance and aerial intelligence that are characteristics of the international coalition's advisory mission in Iraq."

He told VOA that while the campaign to destroy IS remnants in Iraq continues, the Iraqi government still needs the expertise of "the international coalition in reorganizing the Iraqi armed forces, reforming the security sector, strengthening intelligence capacity building and bridging civil-military relations."

The ultimate objective for Washington and Baghdad is to withdraw the remaining 3,500 U.S. troops from Iraq within three years starting from August, Allawi added.

Last week, U.S.-led coalition troops withdrew from Iraq's Taji military base and handed it over to Iraqi security forces.

The handover of the base, located north of Baghdad, was the eighth transfer of the coalition portion of an Iraqi base back to Iraqi security forces, the coalition said in a statement.

VOA's Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.

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