US General Sees Iraq Troop Drawdown as IS Threat Dims

 In Syria, Middle East, Terrorism, Iraq

A feared resur­gence of the Islamic State has not so far mate­ri­al­ized in Iraq, paving the way for a fur­ther coali­tion troop draw­down, a US com­man­der said Wednesday.

Though IS may never be com­plete­ly erad­i­cat­ed, the group has been sig­nif­i­cant­ly dimin­ished from when it con­trolled swathes of Iraq and Syria just a few years ago, Major General Kenneth Ekman, deputy com­man­der of coali­tion forces, told reporters.

“What that has allowed us to do is to reduce our foot­print here in Iraq,” Ekman said, speak­ing from Baghdad. “I think over time, what you will see is a slow reduc­tion of US forces,” he added.

The pres­ence of US troops in Iraq has been a flash­point issue, with Iraqi law­mak­ers voting to for­mal­ly demand the with­draw­al of American forces in recent months.

There are cur­rent­ly about 5,200 US troops in Iraq, which the United States invad­ed in 2003 to topple Iraqi dic­ta­tor Saddam Hussein.

Relations between the two coun­tries have been strained since a series of attacks on US interests in Iraq in late 2019 that Washington has attrib­uted to Iran or its para­mil­i­tary allies in Iraq.

Ekman said a key sign of IS’s reduced threat was its inabil­i­ty to hold ter­ri­to­ry, with its activ­i­ties reduced to a “low level insur­gency hiding in rural areas and… in caves.”

IS declared a cross-border “caliphate” in large parts of Syria and neigh­bor­ing Iraq in 2014, but sev­er­al mil­i­tary cam­paigns against it chipped away at that proto-state and even­tu­al­ly led to its ter­ri­to­r­i­al demise.

Ekman noted the objec­tive now is to keep up the pres­sure on IS and to con­tin­ue to strength­en Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces.

Several mil­i­tary bases have already been turned over to Iraqi forces and a large train­ing camp near Baghdad is to be handed to them on Saturday, he added.

The Defense Post source|articles

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