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Iraq: U.S. starts drawdown after declaration of victory over ISIS
Susannah George and Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Associated Press
AL-ASAD AIRBASE, Iraq – American troops have started to draw down from Iraq following Baghdad’s declaration of victory over the Islamic State group last year, according to Western contractors at a U.S.-led coalition base in Iraq.
Dozens of American soldiers have been transported from Iraq to Afghanistan on daily flights over the past week, along with weapons and equipment, the contractors said.
Two Iraqi officials confirmed to The Associated Press that the U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi government have reached an agreement to draw down troops in Iraq for the first time since the war against IS was launched over three years ago.
The Iraqi officials said the process has not officially begun.
However, an AP reporter at the Al-Asad base in western Iraq saw troop movements reflecting the contractors’ account of a drawdown. The contractors and the Iraqi officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations and declined to reveal the exact size of the drawdown.
“Continued coalition presence in Iraq will be conditions-based, proportional to the need and in coordination with the government of Iraq,” coalition spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon told the AP when asked for comment.
One senior Iraqi official close to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said 60 percent of all American troops currently in country will be withdrawn, according to the initial agreement reached with the United States. The plan would leave a force of about 4,000 U.S. troops to continue training the Iraqi military.
A Pentagon report released in November said there were 8,892 U.S. troops in Iraq as of late September.