ISIS beaten, U.S. troops reportedly start Iraq drawdown

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The U.S. ambassador Douglas Silliman had told local media "the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq has been decreased, especially in Anbar province in coordination with the Iraqi forces".

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over IS in December after Iraqi forces drove its last remnants from the country, three years after the militant group captured about a third of Iraq's territory.

The troops were part of the USA -led global coalition that has also been conducting air raids against IS targets in both Iraq and Syria.

"The battle against Daesh has ended and so the level of the American presence will be reduced", spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said.

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However, the Pentagon insists no drawdown is taking place.

"The total number of USA forces in Iraq now includes 8,400 troops, mostly consultants and their bodyguards", the expert said, adding that Washington wants to keep around 4,000 troops in Iraq for an indefinite period, based on conditions set by the United States strategy.

As Oil Price writes in the article Iraq Arrests ISIS Oil Chief Near Syrian Border, the Iraqi forces ambushed the convoy with which the top ISIS* terrorist-identified as Abdel-Ghani Zargham 'Abdel-Sama-was traveling through the town of Masada in Iraq's northern province of Nineveh.

USA officials say that while Islamic State has lost most of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, there is concern about surviving fighters returning to insurgency tactics.

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In the lead-up to the Iraqi elections set for May, the indefinite presence of US troops in the country continues to be a divisive issue. In the announcement, Mattis said the U.S.' new focus would be on rising powers like China and Russian Federation as opposed to terrorism.

The coalition statement revealed its troops would remain in Iraq as IS extremists "continue to pose a threat" to the country's security and risk transition back into an insurgency.

The U.S. first launched airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq in August 2014. In 2014, Daesh (IS) controlled almost a third of Iraqi territory.

He emphasized that the "drawdown - the first since the war against IS began more than three years ago - was still in its early stages and doesn't mark the beginning of a complete pullout of USA forces", notes AP.

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"We'll continue our presence as long as the Iraqis ask us to".