Security

US general sees Iraq troop drawdown as ISIS threat dims

By AFP

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Military vehicles are pictured at a former presidential palace turned into an Iraqi base where some forces of the international coalition were stationed in Mosul, during a handover ceremony to Iraqi forces on March 30th. [Zaid al-Obeidi/AFP]

A feared resurgence of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) has not so far materialised in Iraq, paving the way for a further coalition troop drawdown, a US commander said Wednesday (July 22nd).

Though ISIS 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, Maj. Gen. 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.

There are currently about 5,200 US troops in Iraq.

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 ISIS'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".

ISIS overran large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, but several military campaigns against it eventually led to its territorial demise.

Ekman noted the objective now is to keep up the pressure on ISIS 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.

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