ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi Ministry of Defense on Thursday rejected media reports claiming that the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State had increased its number of troops in the country.
Although the exact number of coalition forces in Iraq is unknown, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi recently approximated the number of troops in late 2018 to be around 8000, with 75 percent of them being American.
The amount, Abdul-Mahdi said, had been reduced by almost 3000 compared to January of that same year, a short while after Baghdad declared final victory over the Islamic State. Member states of the coalition shortly thereafter stated they would begin a gradual withdrawal process, which is still ongoing.
However, recent local media reports claimed the US’ presence in the country had increased. This prompted some in the public sphere to support lawmakers who are campaigning to pass a bill aimed at expelling all foreign troops.
The Defense Ministry’s Joint Operations Command (JOC) said that the reports were false, describing them as “repeated rumors” aimed primarily at “misleading public opinion.”
“There is no increase in the number of members of the International Coalition Mission in Iraq present for the purpose of training, logistical support, and consultation,” the JOC said in a statement.
Local media also claimed that US forces had erected checkpoints and carried out arrests in several Iraqi cities.
The allegations are “false,” said the JOC, stating “The international coalition does not carry out any mission inside Iraq without prior Iraqi approval.”
The coalition was formed by the US in 2014, with 50 member states at first. There are now 74 countries, as well as international organizations such as INTERPOL and NATO contributing to the coalition’s efforts.
Joint Operations Command spokesman Yahyah Rasool recently said that military vehicles seen in some cities belonged to NATO forces.
NATO plans to expand its activities in Iraq as part of a non-combat mission that focuses on training Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga to ensure a lasting defeat of terrorist groups.
Editing by Nadia Riva