Iraq

US-led coalition officially hands over strategic air base in Anbar to army

The US-led military coalition purportedly formed to fight the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group has officially handed over a strategic air base in Iraq’s western province of Anbar to the country’s government forces.

Iraq’s Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network reported that the troops surrendered the military site to the Arab country’s forces on Saturday during a ceremony with Iraqi and US officials in attendance.

The report added that the measure was in line with the US-led alliance’s objective to reduce the number of American soldiers deployed in military bases across Iraq.

An Iraqi security source said earlier this week that a group of American troops from the US-led military coalition had pulled out of the base, which lies at Habbaniyah district and approximately 74 kilometers (45 miles) west of the capital Baghdad, and moved to Ain al-Assad Air Base in Anbar province.

Separately, Spokesman for the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC), Major General Tahseen al-Khafaji, told the Arabic service of Russia’s Sputnik news agency that Iraqi government will officially assume the full responsibility of al-Taqaddum Air base during a handover ceremony within the next few days.

The US-led forces have already withdrawn from several bases in the Arab country over the past weeks.

On March 30, the media office of the JOC said in a statement that the US-led military alliance had handed over a base in the country’s northern Nineveh province to the Ministry of Defense.

“As a result of fruitful dialogues between the Iraqi government and the international alliance, a site occupied by the International Alliance Mission and within a camp under the Nineveh Operations Command was returned to Iraqi forces after the coalition forces withdrew from it,” the statement read.

It added, “The move came in accordance with the coalition’s commitment to return the sites it has been occupying within the Iraqi military bases and camps.”

The development came only a day after US-led coalition forces withdrew from K1 Air Base, which lies 15 kilometers (9 miles) northwest of Kirkuk, and submitted it to Iraqi forces during a ceremony.

An unnamed Iraqi security source also told the Arabic service of Russia’s Sputnik news agency on March 26 that forces from the US-led alliance had departed Qayyarah Airfield West, which lies some 70 kilometers (43.4 miles) south of Mosul in Nineveh, and handed it over to Iraqi government troops.

On March 17, troops from the US-led coalition had also pulled out from al-Qa’im base in western Iraq on the border with Syria.

Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill on January 5, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country following the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) – better known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, and their companions in a US airstrike authorized by President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport two days earlier.

Later on January 9, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the former Iraqi prime minister, called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the move.

According to a statement released by his office at the time, Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament’s decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The 78-year-old politician said Iraq rejects any violation of its sovereignty, particularly the US military’s violation of Iraqi airspace in the assassination airstrike.

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