Iraqi victories remain fragile as US reduces troops

Photo: Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann / CC BY 2.0

QAIM, Iraq (AP) - Thousands of U.S. troops and billions of dollars spent by Washington have helped bring down the Islamic State group in Iraq, but many of the divisions and problems that helped fuel the extremists' rise remain.

The U.S.-led coalition, which launched the anti-IS fight in August 2014, is now reducing the numbers of American troops in Iraq, after Baghdad declared victory over IS in December. Both Iraqi and U.S. officials say the size of the drawdown hasn't yet been decided.

Iraq's regular military remains dependent on U.S. support. Many within Iraq's minority communities view U.S. presence as a buffer against the Shiite-dominated central government. Still, Iranian-backed militias with strong voices in Baghdad are pushing for a complete U.S. withdrawal, and some Iraqis liken any American presence to a form of occupation.