Foreign troops in Iraq cut by a quarter in 2018, says PM

Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2019

Foreign troops in Iraq cut by a quarter in 2018, says PM

  • US troop numbers in Iraq peaked at some 170,000 during the battle against Al-Qaeda

BAGHDAD: Foreign troop numbers in Iraq fell by a quarter during 2018, Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi said, as the fallout fizzled from Washington’s announcement it was withdrawing from neighboring Syria.

“In January 2018 there had been almost 11,000 foreign fighters, about 70 percent of them are American, the others are from other countries,” Abdel Mahdi told a weekly press briefing on Tuesday evening.

“In December, the numbers have been reduced to almost 8,000, and the American troops are around 6,000... maybe I am wrong by some hundreds.”

Abdel Mahdi said that more than 12 months after the government declared victory over Daesh in Iraq, the drawdown was accelerating.

“In recent months, the decrease has sped up and in the last two months there was a drop of 1,000 forces,” he said.

US President Donald Trump has said that US troops will remain in Iraq after the withdrawal of all troops from Syria and will be available to take action against Daesh on the other side of the border if necessary.

US troop numbers in Iraq peaked at some 170,000 during the battle against Al-Qaeda and other insurgents that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.

Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama ordered a withdrawal that was completed in 2011, but in 2014 ordered a new deployment as part of a US-led coalition battling Daesh, which had proclaimed a “caliphate” in large swathes of Iraq and Syria under its control.

Daesh is now confined to a shrinking enclave of just 15 sq. km in eastern Syria not far from the border where Kurdish-led forces have been engaged in a major offensive with coalition support since May last year.

In Iraq, the militants maintain sleeper cells in the cities and hideouts in sparsely populated desert and mountain areas from which they carry out periodic hit-and-run attacks, some of them deadly.


Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

Updated 22 August 2019

Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

  • The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide

CAIRO: Egypt is seeking Japan’s help to improve its education system, which has fallen to 130th place in international rankings.

The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide, and Cairo is hoping to apply key aspects of Japan’s approach to the Egyptian curriculum.

Education has played a major role in transforming Japan from a feudal state receiving aid following World War II to a modern economic powerhouse. 

During a visit to Japan in 2016, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi discussed political and economic development with Japanese officials, and was also briefed on the Japanese education system.

The Egyptian leader visited Japanese schools and called on Japan to help Egypt introduce a similar system in its schools.  

As part of Egyptian-Japanese cooperation, Japan’s embassy established cultural cooperation as well as technical and professional education links between the two countries. Collaboration has been strengthened from kindergarten to post-university, with Japanese experts contributing in various education fields.

Japanese experts have held seminars in schools across the country, focusing on basic education. 

During one seminar, Japan highlighted the importance of enhancing education by playing games during kindergarten and primary school, encouraging children’s ability and desire to explore.  

Education expert Ola El-Hazeq told Arab News that the Japanese system focuses on developing students’ sense of collective worth and responsibility toward society. This starts with their surrounding environment by taking care of school buildings, educational equipment and school furniture, for example.

“Japanese schools are known for being clean,” El-Hazeq said. “The first thing that surprises a school visitor is finding sneakers placed neatly in a locker or on wooden shelves at the school entrance. Each sneaker has its owner’s name on it. This is a habit picked up at most primary and intermediate schools as well as in many high schools.”

Japanese students also clean their classrooms, collect leaves that have fallen in the playground and take out the garbage. In many cases, teachers join students to clean up schools and also public gardens and beaches during the summer holidays.

El-Hazeq added that neither the teachers nor the students find it beneath their dignity to carry out such chores.

The academic year in Japan continues for almost 11 months, different from most other countries, with the Japanese academic year starting on April 1 and ending on March 31 the following year.

Japan’s school days and hours are relatively longer in comparison with other countries. Usually the school day is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Teachers normally work until 5 p.m. but sometimes up to 7 p.m. Holidays are shorter than in other countries. Spring and winter holidays are no longer than 10 days, and the summer holiday ranges from 40 to 45 days.