American troops leaving Iraq for Afghanistan

Iran Russia Syria Iraq stress cooperation against ISIS

US forces have begun scaling down their numbers in Iraq after Iraqi authorities declared "victory" over the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, an Iraqi government spokesman has said.

In public statements, US officials have suggested that while the Iraqi-led coalition has taken back lands in Syria and Iraq, the threat remains real.

An Iraqi government spokesman says this means a gradual troop reduction.

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.

"We are serious about getting the Americans out, using the force of arms because the Americans don't understand any other language", its spokesman Jaafar al-Husseini said, reiterating the group's threats, broadcast on Beirut-based al-Mayadeen TV on February 5.

"The next stage will turn from military cooperation to training and arming the Iraqi forces", Hadithi said.

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Earlier this week, the US-led coalition issued a press release, which outlined its shift from combat operations in Iraq to sustaining and securing the advances achieved in their fight against Daesh.

They include around 1,000 who surrendered during the battle for Hawija, the last IS urban stronghold in Iraq until its fall late past year, Iraqi Kurdish official Dindar Zibari told reporters.

No one has claimed responsibility for the violence as Iraqi security forces prepare to launch a massive campaign to clean up the area and carry out search operations against remaining Islamic State (IS) sleeper cells. At their peak, U.S. troop levels in Iraq stood near 166,000.

The Iraqi government spokesman told the Associated Press Reporter that: "The battle against Daesh has ended, and so the level of the American presence will be reduced". Some 4,000 USA troops will continue training Iraqi army. Gen. James Glynn said that the U.S. would continue to support Iraqi forces, but that there would likely be a shift in "capabilities".

A dozen return to the U.S. At the time the military intervention was described as "limited", but as Iraq's military struggled to roll back the extremists, the USA -led coalition's footprint in the country steadily grew.

A Pentagon report in December stated that there were 8,892 U.S. troops in the country. US troop numbers eventually wound down to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011.

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