The Pentagon’s top officer in the Middle East confirmed Wednesday that the U.S. will cut the number of troops in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,000 in the coming weeks.
Speaking at an event in Iraq, Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, said the drawdown will take place this month. The White House said late Tuesday that such an announcement was coming.
Gen. McKenzie’s confirmation will serve as campaign fuel for President Trump, who has long vowed to wind down “endless wars” in the Middle East and bring American service members back home. One of Mr. Trump’s chief foreign policy achievements has been the destruction of the Islamic State’s physical “caliphate” across Syria and Iraq, and Gen. McKenzie said those efforts along with strides by regional security forces have enabled the drawdown.
He specifically said Iraqi security forces have made substantial progress and are now able to shoulder more of the burden.
“In recognition of the great progress the Iraqi forces have made and in consultation and coordination with the government of Iraq and our coalition partners, the United States has decided to reduce our troop presence in Iraq from about 5,200 to 3,000 troops during the month of September,” Gen. McKenzie said, according to an excerpt of comments he made during an Operation Inherent Resolve event Wednesday.
Inherent Resolve is the U.S-led mission to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
The president also is expected to announce another drawdown in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have been stationed since October 2001. Mr. Trump has said the U.S. is working on a deal that would cut American forces in Afghanistan from about 8,500 to between 4,000 and 5,000 before Election Day in November.
“We kept America out of new wars, and we’re bringing our troops back home,” the president said Tuesday during a campaign event in North Carolina. “We’re bringing them back home from all of these faraway places.”
• Dave Boyer contributed to this story, which is based in part on wire service reports.