US to Withdraw Over 2,000 Troops From Iraq

US to Withdraw Over 2,000 Troops From Iraq
U.S. soldiers during a handover ceremony of Taji military base from U.S.-led coalition troops to Iraqi security forces, in the base north of Baghdad, Iraq, on Aug. 23, 2020. (Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters)
Zachary Stieber

The United States plans to withdraw 2,200 troops from Iraq before the end of September, a top U.S. official said Wednesday.

“We are continuing to expand on our partner capacity programs that enable Iraqi forces and allow us to reduce our footprint in Iraq,” Marine General Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, said during a visit to Iraq.

The drawdown will take the number of American forces to 3,000.

A senior administration official told reporters on Air Force One late Tuesday that there would be an announcement regarding further troop withdrawals from Iraq.

The official also said there would be an announcement concerning Afghanistan in the coming days.

President Donald Trump was returning to Washington from a rally in North Carolina.

Trump told those assembled: "We kept America out of new wars and we are bringing our troops back home. We are bringing them back home from these faraway places."

The United States and Iraq in June affirmed their commitment to the reduction of U.S. troops in the country in coming months, with no plans by Washington to maintain permanent bases or a permanent military presence.

In 2016 Trump campaigned on ending America’s "endless wars." U.S. troops remain in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, albeit in smaller numbers.

Trump told reporters during an Aug. 20 meeting with Iraq's prime minister that, at some point, the United States will be completely withdrawn from Iraq.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. And hopefully Iraq can live their own lives and they can defend themselves, which they’ve been doing long before we got involved," he said.

Iraqi officials have mulled ousting U.S. troops, but have not done so.

Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi asked in January for the United States to prepare to withdraw troops but later said he'd leave the decision to his successor.

Trump's meeting was with Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who succeeded Abdul-Mahdi. The new prime minister praised the United States for helping defeat ISIS, the terror group, and in toppling Saddam Hussein's regime.

The United States withdrew troops from Afghanistan earlier this year, meeting an agreed upon target of 8,600.
Reuters contributed to this report.