Western Mail

US set to cut troops in Iraq by 2,000

- ROBERT BURNS & ZEKE MILLER Associated Press reporter newsdesk@walesonlin­e.co.uk

THE United States is reducing its troop presence in Iraq this month from 5,200 to 3,000, the top American commander for the Middle East has said.

The move comes as President Donald Trump tries to make good on his campaign promise to get the United States out of “endless wars”.

During a visit to Iraq, Marine General Frank McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command, said the reduction in Iraq reflects US confidence in the ability of US-trained Iraqi security forces to handle the militant threat from the Islamic State group, which entered Iraq from Syria in 2014.

Late on Tuesday, a senior Trump administra­tion official told reporters on Air Force One that such an announceme­nt was coming and that an announceme­nt on the withdrawal of additional troops from Afghanista­n could also be expected in the coming days.

Mr Trump has been trying to make the case that he has fulfilled the promises he made four years ago as he campaigns for a second term.

US forces have been in Afghanista­n since 2001. They invaded Iraq in 2003 and left in 2011 but returned in 2014 after the Islamic State group overran large parts of Iraq.

“In recognitio­n of the great progress the Iraqi forces have made and in consultati­on and co-ordination 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,” Mr McKenzie said.

Mr McKenzie said the remaining US troops would continue advising and assisting Iraqi security forces as they attempt to root out remnants of the socalled Islamic State group, sometimes known as Isis.

“The US decision is a clear demonstrat­ion of our continued commitment to the ultimate goal, which is an Iraqi security force that is capable of preventing an Isis resurgence and of securing Iraq’s sovereignt­y without external assistance,” Mr McKenzie said.

“The journey has been difficult, the sacrifice has been great, but the progress has been significan­t.”

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