US to reduce troops in Iraq to about 3,500

The US will cut one-third of its military presence in Iraq, bringing the number of American troops in the country down to 3,500 from about 5,200.

Citing several US officials, The Wall Street Journal said in a report on Friday that the Pentagon over the next two or three months would reduce military presence in Iraq by roughly one-third, reports Xinhua news agency.

That would bring force levels roughly back to where they were in 2015 when the US was in the early phase of its campaign against the Islamic State (IS) terror group, according to the report.

The report said the actual number of troops might be slightly more than 3,500, due to Pentagon counting rules that often exclude personnel on temporary assignments.

Currently, there are over 5,000 US troops deployed in Iraq to support domestic forces in battles against remnants of the IS.

The US and Iraq held a strategic dialogue in June, the joint statement of which said that Washington would reduce forces from the war-torn country over the coming months.

Commander of US Central Command Kenneth McKenzie said earlier this month that he expected the American military to maintain a long-term presence in Iraq to help fight Islamic extremists and to check Iranian influence in the country.

As the presidential election looms, US President Donald Trump has recently doubled down on the effort of pulling American troops out of “endless wars”.

Last week, he reiterated his intention to withdraw US troops from Iraq, but no detailed timeframe has been released yet.

“At some point, we obviously will be gone. We’ve brought it down to a very, very low level,” Trump told reporters in the White House during his meeting with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on August 20.

Earlier this month, Defence Secretary Mark Esper confirmed that US troops in Afghanistan would be reduced to less than 5,000 by the end of November.