The Latest: Iraqi spokesman confirms US forces drawing down
BAGHDAD – The Latest on the drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq following defeat of the Islamic State group (all times local):
An Iraqi government spokesman has confirmed to The Associated Press that the drawdown of American forces from Iraq has begun following Baghdad's declaration of victory over the Islamic State group.
Government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi says "the battle against Daesh has ended and so the level of the American presence will be reduced." Daesh is the Arabic language acronym for IS.
Al-Hadithi stressed the drawdown is still in its early stages and at present does not mark the beginning of a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces.
The United States first launched airstrikes against IS in Iraq in August 2014 and in the following years closely backed key Iraqi military victories, including the retaking of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.
Western contractors at a U.S.-led coalition base in Iraq say American troops have started to drawdown from the country following the defeat of the Islamic State group.
They say U.S. soldiers, weapons and equipment are being transported out of Iraq to Afghanistan.
The contractors say dozens of American soldiers have left on daily flights over the past week.
Two Iraqi officials tell The Associated Press the U.S.-led coalition has reached an agreement to draw down its troops in Iraq for the first time since the war against IS was launched over three years ago
An AP reporter at the base saw troop movements matching the officials' account.
The contractors and officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations and declined to reveal the exact size of the drawdown.