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We have reduced our footprint in Iraq: US-led Coalition spokesman

The US scaling down of its troop presence in Iraq has been made possible by the Iraqi Security Forces’ (ISF) progress, said the spokesperson of the US-led Coalition to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS) group.

“The ISF are doing better and as a result the Iraqis are doing better. The US portion of the coalition is able to reduce its presence,” Spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) Wayne Marotto told Rudaw’s Shaho Amin on Saturday. “The ISF have made positive strides in professionalism, in their ability to operate independently to keep pressure on Daesh (ISIS),” he added.

Marotto reiterated that the US would be drawing down its Coalition troops to 2,500 by January 15, noting that they have already “departed a number of Iraqi facilities,” in an effort to reduce their “footprint” in Iraq. The decision to scale-down was announced by Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller in mid-November.

The Pentagon had already said it would reduce US forces on the ground from 5,200 to 3,000 in September.

The US-led Global Coalition was formally established in October 2014 by the US Department of Defense after ISIS took control of large swathes of territories in Iraq and Syria. The forces have recently handed over several military bases to the control of Iraqi security forces.

US facilities and personnel have continuously been the target of Iran-backed groups in Iraq.

The US has previously threatened to withdraw all troops and close its embassy if Kadhimi was unable to rein in Iran-backed groups believed to be behind the attacks, most of whom are in or linked to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi) – an umbrella network of militias.

Rocket attacks resumed against the US embassy last month after Iranian-backed Iraqi militia groups announced a 40-day “conditional” ceasefire.

Marotto reaffirmed the United States’ continued support to their Syrian and Iraqi partners, as well as the Kurdish Peshmerga, to ensure the defeat of ISIS.

“Approximately $1.3 billion worth of supplies and equipment is planned to be divested over the next 18 months for the Peshmerga,” funded by the US Department of Defense and overseen by OIR, says Marotto.

The US gave $250 million in military equipment to the KRG’s Peshmerga Ministry in September, according to US ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller. Source