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US Lockheed Martin leaves Iraq’s Balad base following rocket attacks

May 12, 2021 at 12:07 pm

Lockheed Martin corporation U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. [Lockheed Martin/Getty Images]

Lockheed Martin said on Monday it is withdrawing personnel who support Iraq’s F-16 fleet from Balad Air Base because of threats from militias in the region.

“In coordination with the US government and with employee safety as our top priority, Lockheed Martin is relocating our Iraq-based F-16 team,” Joseph LaMarca Jr., a company vice president for communications, said in a statement.

“We value our partnership with the Iraqi Air Force and will continue to work with the Iraq and US governments to ensure mission success going forward,” he added.

On Monday, the New York Times reported a senior Iraqi official in the Ministry of Defence saying that the company had 70 employees at Balad, with 50 expected to return to the US and 20 heading to Erbil in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

The official added that the Iraqi ministry had asked the company to delay the decision, but then it said the personnel would return in a few months when protection would be provided.

READ: Iraq reinforces security presence at Iran consulate in Karbala

The paper said the company’s decision “highlights the Iraqi government’s inability to rein in the militias, which are thought to be behind attacks on US interests and comes a year after the Iraqi prime minister, Mustafa Al-Kazemi took office as prime minister and pledged to reduce Iranian influence in the country.”

According to the paper, the decision by Lockheed Martin is expected to ground the few remaining F-16s fighter jets which form part of Iraq’s fleet; casting doubt on Iraq’s ability to fight Daesh militants.