0454 GMT November 29, 2020
“Today, the American forces began to withdraw and the number is 500, who were announced in accordance with the agreement between Baghdad and Washington recently,” Major General Tahsin al-Khafaji said in a statement to Russia’s Sputnik news agency on Friday, according to Press TV.
He stressed that the remaining American forces in Iraq are not combat units, adding, “We only have those who meet the support for airstrikes to target ISIS (Daesh) remnants, and logistical and advisory.”
Khafaji further said that the “withdrawal of US forces from Iraq will take place within a very short period, according to a schedule between Iraq and the US, and according to specific timings.”
On Tuesday, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said the US will reduce troop levels in Iraq from about 3,000 to 2,500 by mid-January.
The following day, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein confirmed that Baghdad and Washington had agreed to the pullout of 500 American soldiers after a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In another development on Friday, Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, a faction of Iraq’s anti-terror Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) or Hashd al-Sha’abi, said resistance groups are waiting for the implementation of the Pentagon's decision to draw down its forces and then withdraw completely from the country in May 2021.
"We do not trust the decisions by the US, but we hope that it is honest in this step," said Kadhim al-Fartousi, Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada spokesman.
Baghdad, he added, is still negotiating with Washington through joint committees to schedule deploying US troops outside Iraq.
Anti-US sentiment has been running high in Iraq following Washington’s January 3 assassination of top Iranian anti-terror commander, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, and senior Hashd al-Sha’abi commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in addition to several other comrades, outside the Baghdad airport.
Just two days later, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously passed a bill mandating the expulsion of all foreign troops from the country.
Washington, however, has threatened sanctions should US troops be expelled from Iraq instead of ending the occupation of the Arab country.