In Rudaw 

US reduces troop numbers in Iraq to 2,500: Pentagon

The United States has reduced the number of its troops in Iraq to 2,500, according to a statement released by the Department of Defense on Friday.

“Today, the United States has reduced the force levels in Iraq to 2,500 as directed by President Trump, and as I announced on November 17, 2020,” said Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller.

He said the drawdown is “reflective of the increased capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces” and is “consistent with Operation Inherent Resolve’s transition from major combat operations.”

In a separate statement, the department announced they also reduced troops in Afghanistan to the same number.

US forces have come under repeated attack since Washington’s assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in a January 2020 airstrike, also killing Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, the Iraqi deputy of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi).

The attacks have reduced recently despite fresh US sanctions on both Iran and PMF officials.

Washington has previously threatened to withdraw all troops and close its Baghdad embassy if the Iraqi government fails to reign in Iran-backed militias, who have repeatedly targeted the embassy and Iraqi military bases hosting US-led coalition troops, as well as coalition-contracted convoys.

Despite the reductions, Baghdad and Washington agree that a US and coalition presence remains “vital” in the continued fight against ISIS, the statement added.

“We will continue to have a counterterrorism platform in Iraq to support partner forces with airpower and intelligence. Most operations in Iraq were already being conducted by our Iraqi partners, enabled by US and Coalition forces.”

Coalition spokesperson Colonel Wayne Marotto said in a tweet on Friday that their “partners” on the ground in Iraq and Syria have “completed 48 operations against Daesh [ISIS], preventing 24 leaders & 11 henchmen from committing acts of terror.” Source