US to pull almost half its troops from Iraq this month

9 September 2020, 17:30

Troops will be reduced by more than 2,000 as Donald Trump aims to fulfil a presidential campaign promise
Troops will be reduced by more than 2,000 as Donald Trump aims to fulfil a presidential campaign promise. Picture: Getty
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

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.

During a visit to Iraq on Wednesday, Marine General Frank McKenzie, confirmed the number of troops would be reduced this month from 5,200 to 3,000.

The move, he said in a statement, was "in recognition" of the US-trained Iraqi security forces' ability to now handle threats from the Islamic State militant group.

It comes as President Donald Trump tries to make good on his campaign promise to get the United States out of "endless wars".

Remaining troops will continue to advise and assist the rooting out of the group, which entered Iraq and Syria in 2014.

READ MORE: Multiple US bases in Iraq hit with rockets in aftermath of General Soleimani killing

Donald Trump is working to fulfil earlier promises as he campaigns for a second term as president
Donald Trump is working to fulfil earlier promises as he campaigns for a second term as president. Picture: PA

"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," he said.

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

It comes just under two months before Americans will head to the polls to choose their next president.

READ MORE: New ISIS leader 'captured by special forces in Iraq'

On Tuesday, a senior Trump administration official told reporters that the announcement on Iraq was imminent, and that a further one could be expected relating to Afghanistan in the next few days.

US troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001, and they invaded Iraq in 2003.

Having left the latter in 2011, they returned three years later to stave off the threat from the Islamic State.

READ MORE: Furious Iraqi caller hits out at President Trump's U-turn on Qassem Soleimani

Earlier this year, US-Iraq relations grew tense after a US drone strike killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis near Baghdad Airport.

It led to a number of Iraqi politicians to pass a non-binding resolution to see all US-led coalition forces pushed out of the country.

READ MORE: US forced to deny troops 'withdrawing from Iraq' despite letter to military

Iran later launched a response to the killing of its general by attacking the al-Asad air base in Iraq, resulting in the brain injury of more than 100 American soldiers.

In a further retaliation, the US launched strikes against five sites to target the Iranian-backed Shiite militia members believed to be behind the al-Asad attack.