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US General Sees Iraq Troop Drawdown as IS Threat Dims

U.S. General Sees Iraq Troop Drawdown as I.S. Threat Dims

BAGHDAD – A feared resurgence of the Islamic State (IS) has so far not materialized in Iraq, paving the way for further reduction of coalition troops, a U.S. commander, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Ekman, said on Wednesday.
Although the I.S. can never be completely eradicated, the group has declined significantly in numbers since it controlled swaths of Iraq and Syria just a few years ago, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Ekman, deputy commander of coalition forces, told reporters.
“What it has allowed us to do is reduce our footprint here in Iraq,” said Ekman, speaking from Baghdad.
“I think over time, what you will see is a slow reduction of the U.S. forces,” he added.
The presence of U.S. troops in Iraq has been a critical issue, with Iraqi lawmakers voting to demand the withdrawal of U.S. forces in recent months formally.
There are currently around 5,200 US soldiers in Iraq, which the United States invaded in 2003 to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Relations between the two countries have strained since a series of attacks on U.S. interests in Iraq in late 2019 that Washington attributed to Iran or its paramilitary allies in Iraq.
Ekman said a vital sign of the I.S. threat reduction was its inability to maintain territory, with its activities reduced to a “low-level insurgency hidden in rural areas and … in caves.”
I.S. declared a cross-border “caliphate” across much of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, but several military campaigns against it affected that proto-state and ultimately led to its territorial disappearance.
Ekman noted that the goal now is to keep the pressure on I.S. and continue to strengthen Iraqi security forces.
Several military bases have already been handed over to Iraqi forces, and an extensive training camp near Baghdad will be handed over to them on Saturday, he added.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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