The U.S. plans to cut the troop presence in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,000 by the end of September as President Donald Trump seeks to fulfill a campaign promise to end America’s “endless wars.”
The withdrawal will bring the U.S. troop level in Iraq down to 3,000, said Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command. He announced the troop withdrawal during a ceremony for Operation Inherent Resolve, the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State militants, with Iraq’s minister of defense.
Trump has campaigned on ending America’s wars, and has reduced U.S. troop presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
The news also comes as Trump faces backlash over allegations that he called U.S. troops “losers” and “suckers,” and as he trails his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the polls just weeks ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election. The announcement also comes two days after Trump accused Pentagon leaders of waging wars to ensure contractors “stay happy.”
McKenzie said the force reduction is due to “the great progress the Iraqi forces have made and in consultation and coordination with the Government of Iraq and our coalition partners.”
“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.”
The decision was due to the Iraqi Security Forces’ increased ability to “operate independently,” McKenzie said, stressing that the goal is “an Iraqi Security Force that is capable of preventing an ISIS resurgence and of securing Iraq’s sovereignty without external assistance.”
Trump is expected to also announce a reduction of troops in Afghanistan in the coming days. The U.S. has about 8,600 troops in the country, and the president said in an interview last month that he planned to reduce that number to about 4,000.