U.S. will Reduce Troop Levels in Iraq, Baghdad Says

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The US will withdraw troops from Iraq following a deal between the US-led coalition and the Iraqi government, according to an Associated Press report.

The US-led coalition against the extremist group Islamic State (IS) says it will "shift its focus" in Iraq away from combat operations against the militants.

Since Iraqi forces and the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias took control of Kirkuk, the oil-rich city has experienced unprecedented security incidents including kidnappings, assassinations, and bombings.

There were roughly 9,000 US troops in Iraq last September, according to a Pentagon report. "Military success has bought time, space and security for non-military stabilization efforts to help the people of Iraq, and we look to facilitate the return of normalcy for Iraqis". According to contractors at a US-led coalition base in Iraq, dozens of troops, with weapons and equipment, have been flown out of the country on daily flights to Afghanistan over the past week.

"2018 will be a critical year in adjusting coalition forces as it consolidates gains against Daesh and brings hope for a better future to the Iraqi people", it said using the Arabic acronym for IS.

The George Washington University team scoured online material, reviewed court records, spoke with government officials and interviewed some of those who returned to the USA after joining ISIS.

The attendants in the meeting stressed the continuation of intelligence cooperation between Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Russian Federation to counter terrorist groups and fight against the ISIL.

Al-Hadithi spoke just hours after AP reported the American drawdown - the first since the war against IS was launched more than three years ago.

According to a coalition press release, the enduring US military presence in Iraq will be conditions-based and "proportional to the need and in coordination with the government of Iraq". At their peak, United States troop levels in Iraq stood near 166,000.

As of January 1, 2018, says Hughes, "no returned travelers from Syria and Iraq have successfully committed a terrorist attack in the USA following their re-entry".

"As a result of the successful operations by the Coalition and its partners, Daesh [Islamic State] has lost approximately 98 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria", the release said. The plan would leave a force of about 4,000 USA troops to continue training the Iraqi military.

The US first launched airstrikes against IS in Iraq in August 2014, as part of a military intervention which was initially described as "limited".

A Pentagon report in December stated that there were 8,892 USA troops in the country.

Despite that information, the US military cites the official number of USA troops in Iraq as approximately 5,262.