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US-led forces hand over military base to Iraq in effort to reduce US troop numbers

March 27, 2020 at 3:42 pm

US builds military base in Iraq for Tal Afar offensive [Ibrahim Saleh/Anadolu Agency]

Forces from the US-led coalition fighting Daesh in Iraq began withdrawing from an air base in the north of the country yesterday and handed over the territory to Baghdad as part of an effort to reduce the number of foreign fighters in the region.

Al-Qayyarah Air Base in the south of the city of Mosul, from which the Deash militant group announced its self-declared caliphate in 2014, is the second military base to be handed over to the Iraqis this month. Last week marked the beginning of US troop withdrawal from Iraq as coalition forces left Al-Qaim base on the Iraq-Syria border.

“The coalition will operate from lower positions, but it remains committed to supporting our partners in the fight against ISIS [Daesh],” coalition forces spokesman Brigadier-General Vincent Parker said in a statement.

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Coalition officials said the forces have reduced the number of units and moved them to fewer Iraqi bases. Iraqi forces are said to be sufficiently trained and equipped to deter the threat from the remnants of Daesh fighters.

The US-led coalition has been supporting the Iraqi army since 2014 in fighting and neutralising the terrorist group. Thousands of militants are believed to still be active, most hiding in remote areas such as deserts and mountains in northern Iraq. Though they carry out sporadic attacks on the security forces, they have not been able to control any new territory since 2017.

Earlier this month the Americans announced their intention to reduce the US footprint in the country as tensions continued to escalate following the killing of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani.

The coalition has about 7,500 personnel in Iraq today, including 5,000 Americans.

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