The US military will reduce the number of troops in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,000 in the month of September, according to the top US general in the Middle East.
“In recognition of the great progress the Iraqi forces have made and 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,” said Gen. Kenneth McKenzie in remarks Wednesday in Baghdad.
The first US troop reduction in Iraq since 2016 is larger and will be carried out in a much faster timeline than had been reported just weeks ago.
“This reduced footprint allows us to continue advising and assisting our Iraqi partners in rooting out the final remnants of ISIS in Iraq and ensuring its enduring defeat,” said McKenzie, who was in Baghdad for the change of command of the leadership of the US-led coalition against ISIS.
Earlier this year, the US reduced the number of troops in Afghanistan to 8,600 as agreed to in a peace deal with the Taliban.
The reduction of US troop levels in Iraq had been anticipated all summer as US military officials highlighted the Iraqi military’s growing ability to carry out independent operations against the remnants of ISIS.
However, the troop reduction announced by McKenzie is larger and will be carried in a much faster timeline than what US officials had indicated just a few weeks ago. At the time, it was reported that US troop levels would be reduced by a third to 3,500 over a couple of months by the time of the US election in November.
The United States has had nearly 5,000 troops in the Arab country, and coalition allies another 2,500, while Iraqi people and parliamentarians stress the need to end any US military presence on their soil.