The Pentagon will slash the level of US troops in Iraq to 3,000 in September, a senior general said Wednesday, as US President Donald Trump seeks to honor a pledge to withdraw from foreign conflicts.
Pentagon File photo:VCG
General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US military's Central Command, said in Baghdad that the decision was "due to our confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces' increased ability to operate independently."
"In consultation and coordination with the Government of Iraq 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 the month of September," he said.
McKenzie said the US would be able to continue supporting the Iraqi military in its fight against the Islamic State group, which was driven out of its "caliphate" territory last year but remains scattered around Iraq.
He said the US was committed to its "ultimate goal" of an Iraq where local forces alone can prevent the Islamic State from returning and secure "Iraq's sovereignty without external assistance."
"The journey has been difficult, the sacrifice has been great, but the progress has been significant," the general said.
By late 2018, there were an estimated 5,200 American troops still stationed in Iraq, making up the bulk of the 7,500 coalition forces there, according to US officials.
Over 2019, dozens of rocket attacks have targeted those forces, the US embassy and logistics convoys heading to Iraqi bases, killing at least six military personnel - three Americans, one Briton and two Iraqis.
US officials have blamed the violence on hardline factions close to Tehran, which as Washington's longtime foe has repeatedly demanded US troops leave the Middle East.
Trump is also set to announce further troop withdrawals from Afghanistan in the coming days, a senior administration official said.