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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Astana Withdraws Soldiers From Iraq

ReutersKazakh soldiers waiting in line at passport control after arriving at the Almaty airport from their tour in Iraq this week.
ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan pulled its soldiers out of Iraq this week following a five-year stint designed to highlight its support for the Unites States.

Although tiny, Kazakhstan's detachment of 29 sappers and engineers to Iraq in 2003 symbolized its efforts to forge closer ties with the West to balance off Russia's traditionally strong influence in Central Asia.

The Kazakh servicemen returned to their homeland in line with a prior agreement with the Iraqi government, said a spokesman for the Kazakh Defense Ministry.

"The Kazakh detachment has finished five-year peacekeeping operations, fulfilled its objectives and successfully ended its mission in Iraq," he said.

Kazakhstan has been Washington's key ally in Central Asia, particularly since the expulsion of U.S. troops from an airbase in neighboring Uzbekistan in 2005.