The United States of America will slash its military presence in Iraq by a one-third, the nation’s top Middle East Commander said on Wednesday, one month after President Trump reaffirmed the move.
America’s military stationed in Iraq will be reduced from 5,200 to 3,000 by this month’s end as Iraqi forces are mostly able to handle the IS or Islamic State on their own according to the American commander, Reuters reported.
Thousands of US troops are deployed in different Middle Eastern stations to fight the Islamic State or the root of terrorism, with the largest numbers stationed in Iraq so far. However, troops continue to remain in other places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Syria, albeit in lesser numbers.
Marine General Frank McKenzie – head of U.S. Central Command, said during a visit to Iraq that: “We are continuing to expand on our partner capacity programs that enable Iraqi forces and allow us to reduce our footprint in Iraq.”
Gen McKenzie said the US military has confidence in the Iraqi Security troops’ ability to handle the threats of the growing pertinence of IS threats in the region.
“This reduced footprint allows us to continue advising and assisting our Iraqi partners in rooting out the final remnants of [IS] in Iraq and ensuring its enduring defeat,” McKenzie added.
Those remaining US troops will continue to advise and assist the Iraqi forces in uprooting the extremist Islamic groups. The US is also supposed to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Germany.
Why is the US Military in Iraq?
The US presence in Iraq goes back to 2003 when the nation invaded Iraq to overthrow President Saddam Hussein and seize the alleged weapons of mass destruction kept in his aide, which turned out to not exist.
However, the US troops had to withdraw from Iraq after the US government led by Barack Obama failed to establish a new negotiation governing their status and the troops were withdrawn in 2011.
Again in 2014, the IS government invited the US troops after IS captured large swathes of Iraqi land to support and train the Iraqi soldiers and fend off the terrorists.
In 2017, Iraq announced the formal military defeat of the IS troops but 5k US soldiers continued to retain in Iraq, should the jihadist regime resurge.
But things started to turn its back to America after a drone strike killed Soleimani, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander which former Iraqi PM slammed as a “clear breach of the terms of the American forces’ presence”.
All these happened at a time when the resistance to international troops present in Iraq was surging among Iraqi officials owing to various underlying factors, despite persistent IS threats.