Iraqi spokesman confirms US forces drawing down

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BAGHDAD (AP) -- 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. He spoke to the AP on Monday afternoon in Baghdad.

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.