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U.S. Says It Will Cut Number Of Troops In Iraq By Nearly Half This Month

The U.S. is planning to withdraw nearly half of the number of U.S. troops deployed to Iraq, according to a senior U.S. military official.

CENTCOM Commander Gen. Frank McKenzie, who is responsible for U.S. forces in the Middle East, says that the U.S. will reduce its troop levels in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,000 and that the cuts will be made this month.

He said the decision reflects confidence in Iraqi security forces.

"Moving forward, we must continue our D-ISIS [defeat ISIS] work together with our partners in Iraq and Syria," McKenzie said in a statement Wednesday. "This decision is due to our confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces' increased ability to operate independently."

The number of U.S. troops currently in Iraq is a small fraction of what it was at its peak — about 170,000 in November 2007, during what was known as the surge.

President Trump has long called for removing U.S. troops from the region and has previously declared that his administration is "ending the era of endless wars."

"We're going to be leaving, and hopefully we're going to be leaving a country that can defend itself," Trump said during Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi's visit to the White House last month.

It's worth noting that troop levels in Iraq are similar to where they were when Trump took office in January 2017. The number has fluctuated a bit during his administration.

U.S. troops began withdrawing from Iraqi military bases in January, with a smaller presence consolidated fewer military installations.

As NPR's Tom Bowman reports, the Trump administration is also expected to announce troop reductions in Afghanistan, dropping from 6,500 to about 4,000.

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Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.