U.S. cuts troop level to 2,500 in Iraq, says Pentagon

U.S. troops walk as a U.S. Army C-47 Chinook helicopter flies over the village of Oreij, south of Mosul, Feb. 22, 2017. (AFP)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The U.S. military has cut troop level in Iraq to 2,500, meeting a goal set by President Donald Trump administration late last year, the Pentagon said on Friday.

U.S. President Donald Trump, seeking to fulfill a campaign promise to end the two wars launched after the 9/11 attacks, had ordered force levels slashed in Iraq and Afghanistan to that level by January 15.

U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said the U.S. force reduction in Iraq reflected “the increased capabilities of the Iraqi security forces,” according to AFP.

“We have long anticipated that the force level required to support Iraq’s fight against ISIS [Islamic State] would decrease as Iraq’s capability to manage the threat from ISIS improves. Our ability to reduce force levels is evidence of real progress,” Voice of America quoted Miller as saying.

He further said the troop reduction in Iraq did not represent a change in U.S. policy and was consistent with plans to reduce the involvement of U.S. troops in large combat operations in the Middle Eastern country, VOA reported.

“U.S. and Coalition forces remain in Iraq to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS,” he stated. “The government of Iraq and the U.S. government agree that ISIS remains a threat and that a U.S. and Coalition presence remains vital.”

“We will continue to have a counterterrorism platform in Iraq to support partner forces with airpower and intelligence,” he said.

The acting secretary also announced the U.S. military met its goal of cutting more than 2,500 troops from Afghanistan.

“Today, the United States is closer than ever to ending nearly two decades of war and welcoming in an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace process to achieve a political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” he said.

Although senior military officials had cautioned against speedy troop reductions in Afghanistan, Miller announced on Nov. 17 that he was implementing Trump’s order. As a result, military commanders scrambled to pull more than 1,500 troops out of the country in the last few weeks, AP reported.

Miller said on Friday that the Pentagon was planning for additional troop reductions to zero by May, adding that “any such future drawdowns remain conditions based.”

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