US troops are beginning to withdraw from Iraq, The Associated Press reports, now that the Islamic State has lost almost all its territory and the government of Iraq has declared its war with the terrorist group finished.
An Iraqi official close to the country's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said earlier that the initial agreement implied the withdrawal of some 60 percent of the current United States contingent, while 4,000 troops would stay to train the Iraqi military.
US officials say that while Islamic State has lost most of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, there is concern about the remaining fighters returning to insurgency tactics.
The Iraqi spokesperson stressed the drawdown was still in its early stages and does not mark the beginning of a complete pullout of USA forces.
The contractors say dozens of American soldiers have left on daily flights over the past week.
He spoke as he and a handful of soldiers from his unit conducted equipment inventory checks required before leaving Iraq.
The troops were part of the US -led global coalition that has also been conducting air raids against IS targets in both Iraq and Syria.
"This is a message to those who doubt the government's decisions regarding the presence of American (forces in Iraq): There are rules and the promise of a withdrawal", al-Hadithi said.
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"The (drawdown) is an abdication of responsibility by the coalition", said Fahad al-Rashed, a member of the provincial council in Anbar province, which has a Sunni majority.
"We will redouble our efforts to develop the Iraqi security forces, ensuring they have the necessary capability and expertise to meet current and future security threats", said British Army Maj.
However, the Pentagon insists no drawdown is taking place.
This comes one year after the city of Baghdad declared victory over the Islamic State terrorist group.
While defeated on the battlefield, US military planners have expected ISIS to switch to insurgent tactics, carrying out high-profile terror attacks in Iraq.
"Enabled by accelerated successes following the liberation of Mosul, the Coalition will shift its focus in Iraq from enabling combat operations to sustaining military gains against Daesh (ISIS)", read the US -led Operation Inherent Resolve's statement.
In a statement, the coalition said it would "shift its focus in Iraq from enabling combat operations to sustaining military gains against" Islamic State militants. Some 4,000 USA troops will continue training Iraqi army.
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