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US announces troop drawdown in Iraq

The US commander in the Middle East announced Wednesday a drawdown of US troops in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,000 in the month of September."This reduced fo...

Posted: Sep 9, 2020 9:34 AM

The US commander in the Middle East announced Wednesday a drawdown of US troops in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,000 in the month of September.

"This reduced footprint allows us to continue advising and assisting our Iraqi partners in rooting out the final remnants of ISIS in Iraq and ensuring its enduring defeat," Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, said.

McKenzie said the decision is due to the United States' "confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces' increased ability to operate independently."

A senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday to also expect an announcement on troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in a couple days.

The decision to pull back US troops from Iraq has long been expected and comes as President Donald Trump attempts to deliver on his 2016 campaign promises while facing a tough reelection. Trump was recently visibly distressed over the fallout that ensued from an article in The Atlantic, alleging that he privately disparaged the war dead, and feared losing support with the military. Trump has forcefully denied he made those comments.

But in a Labor Day news conference, Trump accused top Pentagon military leaders of being beholden to defense contractors, an unprecedented attack from the commander in chief as he tries to convince the American public he did not denigrate US military personnel.

In recent months, training and advising of Iraqi forces has been scaled back due to the coronavirus, and other coalition allies have also withdrawn their troops.

In March, US forces began pulling back from bases across Iraq, turning them over to Iraqi security partners. At the time, Pentagon officials insisted that the base hand-offs were part of a long-planned consolidation that reflected the success of the anti-ISIS fight -- not concerns over the ongoing rocket attacks by Iran-linked proxy militias.

"The threat against our forces from Shiite militant groups has caused us to put resources that we would otherwise use against ISIS to provide for our own defense and that has lowered our ability to work effectively against them," McKenzie said in late August.

On Wednesday, McKenzie reiterated that justification, saying that Iraqi security forces had improved their ability to fight ISIS and that "the fact that we're getting smaller is actually a sign of campaign progress."

But the CENTCOM commander also explicitly linked the withdrawals to the threat from Iran.

"Over the last seven or eight months, we have had to devote resources to self-protection that we would otherwise devote for the counter-ISIS fight and we've had to pull back and our partners have had to pull back," he said. "At the same time we've done things to harden our positions to make it more difficult for Iran to attack us in Iraq -- but it has had an effect."

The US has been under pressure from some elements of Iraq's political system to withdraw American troops from Iraq following the Trump administration's decision to kill Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike in January while he was traveling in Baghdad. That strike also killed a leader of an Iranian-backed militia group that is ostensibly part of Iraq's security forces.

After the targeted killing, Iraq's parliament voted to expel the US military and hundreds of thousands of protesters marched through Baghdad calling for US troops to leave the country, but the Trump administration said it did not intend to pull troops out.

CNN previously reported that the Trump administration plans to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan from 8,600 to 4,500, which would be the lowest number since the very earliest days of the Afghanistan war.

Under an agreement signed with the Taliban in February, the US committed to pulling all of its troops out of Afghanistan by next April, if the Taliban upheld certain commitments in the agreement.

The US is also withdrawing nearly 12,000 troops from NATO-ally Germany -- a move that will cost billions to execute and take years to relocate the troops. The decision has also been met with bipartisan congressional opposition amid concerns that it may encourage Russian aggression.

In August, Trump met with Iraq's new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, in the Oval Office and reiterated his plan to remove troops from Iraq.

"We have been taking our troops out of Iraq fairly rapidly, and we look forward to the day when we don't have to be there," Trump said.

This story has been updated.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 296154

Reported Deaths: 6764
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19731230
Hinds18881393
Harrison16780282
Rankin12787265
Jackson12643229
Lee9703161
Madison9484203
Jones8005147
Forrest7250138
Lauderdale6847227
Lowndes6033140
Lamar590980
Lafayette5747113
Washington5229130
Bolivar4620124
Oktibbeha442194
Panola432396
Pearl River4193132
Warren4138115
Pontotoc410771
Marshall404492
Monroe3993128
Union396474
Neshoba3822170
Lincoln3564104
Hancock350277
Leflore3389119
Sunflower319286
Tate303374
Pike301796
Scott295271
Alcorn292463
Yazoo290865
Itawamba290275
Coahoma282069
Tippah279565
Copiah279259
Simpson276680
Prentiss271158
Wayne254541
Leake253172
Marion252778
Covington249780
Grenada248578
Adams235078
George232445
Newton231252
Winston221979
Jasper213845
Tishomingo212965
Attala206870
Chickasaw201453
Holmes182770
Clay179251
Stone173029
Tallahatchie171439
Clarke169672
Calhoun158528
Smith153033
Yalobusha145536
Greene127933
Walthall124540
Noxubee123131
Montgomery122939
Perry122235
Lawrence120621
Carroll119025
Amite112235
Webster111132
Jefferson Davis102731
Tunica99523
Claiborne99129
Benton93924
Humphreys93027
Kemper90423
Quitman77414
Franklin76219
Choctaw69817
Jefferson62827
Wilkinson62427
Sharkey49117
Issaquena1676
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 498076

Reported Deaths: 10094
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson716711387
Mobile36294737
Madison32616468
Tuscaloosa24340421
Montgomery22739519
Shelby22174218
Baldwin19873289
Lee15039157
Calhoun13832293
Morgan13753254
Etowah13390325
Marshall11448211
Houston10124264
Elmore9483190
Limestone9420138
St. Clair9022227
Cullman8984182
Lauderdale8612214
DeKalb8489175
Talladega7606165
Walker6585259
Jackson6545104
Autauga632492
Blount6236127
Colbert6001121
Coffee5264103
Dale4671107
Russell406933
Franklin399878
Covington3993106
Chilton3898103
Escambia379173
Tallapoosa3622143
Clarke344053
Chambers3431111
Dallas3422142
Pike293373
Marion288695
Lawrence284985
Winston258368
Bibb246160
Geneva240370
Marengo238857
Pickens225457
Barbour213651
Hale212269
Fayette202057
Butler201466
Henry183541
Cherokee178039
Monroe166739
Randolph164840
Washington156836
Macon147745
Crenshaw146255
Clay145954
Cleburne139841
Lamar133733
Lowndes132751
Wilcox122925
Bullock117336
Conecuh107024
Perry106127
Sumter99732
Coosa90224
Greene88532
Choctaw55323
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