US to reduce number of troops in Iraq

Washington DC, June 11 (efe-epa).- The United States will reduce the number of troops deployed in Iraq “over the coming months,” the governments of both nations announced Thursday in a joint statement, in which they did not specify deadlines or detail on how many soldiers will leave Iraq.

“The two countries recognized that in light of significant progress towards eliminating the ISIS threat, over the coming months, the US would continue reducing forces from Iraq and discuss with the Government of Iraq the status of remaining forces,” read the statement released by the US Department of State in Washington.

According to the latest official data from February, the international coalition that was formed in 2014 to fight the Islamic State (ISIS) had 7,500 military personnel deployed in Iraq, of which 5,000 were Americans.

In March, the US relocated some of its soldiers, who left three Iraqi bases and moved to two other headquarters – one located in Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq and which was controlled by IS until 2017, and another base outside of Habbaniyah city near the Euphrates river.

In the statement, the US reiterated that “it does not seek nor request permanent bases or a permanent military presence in Iraq,” as both governments agreed in 2008.

However, in the statement, it recalled that “the Government of Iraq committed to protecting the military personnel of the International Coalition and the Iraqi facilities hosting them consistent with international law and the specific arrangements for their presence,” something both countries will need to decide upon in the future.

The announcement made on Thursday is the result of the beginning of much-anticipated strategic talks between Washington and Baghdad, which seek to address the future of Iraq in terms of security and economy, hurt by the decline in oil prices.

Thursday’s dialog held via video conference was joined by the Iraqi Foreign Minister Abdul Karim Hashim Mustafa and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, David Hale.

In addition to the troops issue, the two officials discussed the possibility for the US to provide “economic advisors to work directly” with the Iraqi government and help it implement economic reforms.

The two governments also discussed the potential for US firms to invest in the Iraqi oil sector. EFE-EPA


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