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Kazakhstan Withdraws Soldiers from Iraq

Kazakhstan pulled its military unit out of Iraq Tuesday, marking the end of a five-year operation alongside U.S. troops.

A Kazakh Defense Ministry spokesman says the withdrawal of about 30 military engineers is part of a prior agreement with the Iraqi government. He also said security has stabilized in the region significantly.

The Kazakh soldiers were responsible for removing land mines and other explosives.

Kazakhstan's engagement in Iraq has been seen as part of a balancing act between boosting its strategic ties with the U.S. and maintaining its strong relationship with Russia. In a visit earlier this month with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Kazakh foreign minister said Kazakhstan has no intention to become part of either country's sphere of influence.

The Kazakh Foreign Ministry reports that Kazakh soldiers in Iraq destroyed more than four million units of explosives and helped train hundreds of Iraqi cadets.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, Bloomberg and Reuters.