U.S.-led coalition hands over military base near Baghdad to Iraqi forces

Just Earth News | @justearthnews | 23 Aug 2020, 10:58 am Print

U.S.-led coalition hands over military base near Baghdad to Iraqi forces

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Baghdad/Xinhua: The U.S.-led international coalition forces, tasked with fighting the Islamic State (IS) militant group, on Sunday handed over a military base in Taji Camp in the north of Baghdad to Iraqi forces, the official Iraqi news agency reported.

"The coalition forces handed over the site No.8 at al-Taji Camp which was used to train and equip Iraqi forces by Australian, New Zealand and American forces," the Iraqi News Agency (INA) quoted Tahseen al-Khafaji, spokesman of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, as saying.

The military site was handed over to the Iraqi forces in the presence of a representative of the prime minister, who signed the minutes of the handover, al-Khafaji said, noting that other sites will be handed over to the Iraqi side according to a timeline.

Al-Taji Camp is a huge military base containing an airbase where some U.S. troops are stationed.

On Thursday, INA reportedly said that Iraq and the United States announced that the U.S.-led coalition forces will withdraw from Iraq in three years.

During his recent official visit to the United States, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi agreed with U.S. officials "on forming a special team to discuss mechanisms and timings for the redeployment of the U.S.-led international coalition forces outside Iraq," INA said.

On Aug. 18, al-Kadhimi and his delegation headed to Washington at an official invitation of the U.S. government, during which he held a series of meetings and attended the second session of strategic dialogue between the two countries.

Earlier, the international coalition forces handed over several military sites to the Iraqi security forces in central and northern the country.

The relation between Baghdad and Washington has witnessed a tension since Jan. 3 after a U.S. drone struck a convoy at Baghdad airport, which killed Qassem Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq's paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces.

The tension pushed the two sides to hold a round of strategic dialogues on June 12, during which the United States confirmed that it does not seek permanent military presence in the country and that over the coming months the U.S. would continue reducing forces from Iraq and discuss with the government of Iraq the status of remaining forces.

Over 5,000 U.S. troops have been deployed in Iraq to support Iraqi forces in battles against the IS, mainly for training and advisory purposes.

The troops were part of the U.S.-led international coalition that has also been conducting air raids against IS targets in both Iraq and Syria.