US troops in Iraq to be reduced to 2,000 soon: Trump (Lead)
US President Donald Trump has said that US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq would soon be reduced to about 4,000 and 2,000, respectively.
“A lot of progress has been made in Afghanistan, but we will be down to 4,000 soldiers in a very short period of time. Likewise in Iraq, we will be down to about 2,000 soldiers in a very short period of time,” Trump said on Thursday during the White House briefing, Xinhua reported.
“We’re pretty much out of Iraq and we’re down to the smallest force that we’ve had, and we’ll be very short late down to that number in Afghanistan,” he added.
The troop reduction plan that Trump revealed was a step further than the plan the US military announced a day before.
Commander of US Central Command Kenneth McKenzie said Wednesday that US troop presence in Iraq is scheduled to be reduced to 3,000 by the end of September, and that in Afghanistan will be decreased to about 4,500 by early November.
Currently, there are over 5,000 US troops deployed in Iraq to support Iraqi forces in battles against remnants of the Islamic State, mainly for training and advisory purposes.
As the presidential election looms, Trump has made more effort to fulfill his campaign promise to bring troops home and pull his country out of “endless wars”.
Trump in the briefing also told reporters that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would head for Qatar for the beginning of intra-Afghan peace negotiations.
The government of Qatar announced on Thursday that a fresh round of Afghanistan peace talks will start in the Qatari capital Doha on September 12, according to the Qatar news agency, Xinhua reported.
Trump has sought a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan, which has caused about 2,400 US military deaths, is the longest one in US history.
The Pentagon said in mid-July that the US maintained its force level in Afghanistan at mid-8,000s, meeting the conditions of the US-Taliban agreement signed in late February.
The agreement also called for a full withdrawal of the US military forces from Afghanistan by May 2021 if the Taliban meets the conditions of the deal, including severing ties with terrorist groups.