US troops withdraw from Taji base in Iraq
CAMP TAJI, IRAQ– United States-led international coalition troops withdrew from Iraq’s Taji military base on Sunday and handed it over to Iraqi security forces, the coalition said Sunday.
The base, 20 km north of Baghdad, had been the site of frequent rocket attacks by Iran-backed militias targeting US-led troops in recent months.
“The movement of coalition military personnel is part of a long-range plan coordinated with the government of Iraq,” the coalition said in a statement, adding that Camp Taji has historically held up to 2,000 coalition members, most of whom have departed this summer.
Remaining coalition troops will depart in the coming days after finalising the handing over of equipment to Iraqi security forces, it added.
This was the eighth transfer of a coalition portion of an Iraqi base back to Iraqi forces, it said.
The withdrawal came days after US President Donald Trump redoubled his promise to continue the withdrawal of the US troops still in the country. The United States has had about 5,000 troops stationed in Iraq and coalition allies a further 2,500.
Iraq’s parliament had voted this year for the departure of foreign troops from Iraq and U.S. and other coalition troops have been leaving as part of a drawdown.
The vote came after a US air strike on Baghdad airport killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Last Thursday, US President Donald Trump reaffirmed his plan to withdraw all American troops from Iraq as quickly as possible as he met with the Iraqi prime minister to discuss ways to rein in pro-Iran militias in the country and counter residual threats from ISIS sleeper cells.
“We look forward to the day when we don’t have to be there,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
“We were there and now we’re getting out. We’ll be leaving shortly and the relationship is very good. We’re making very big oil deals. Our oil companies are making massive deals… We’re going to be leaving and hopefully we’re going to be leaving a country that can defend itself,” Trump said.
Asked about a timetable for a full withdrawal, the US president turned to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who replied: “As soon as we can complete the mission. The president has made very clear he wants to get our forces down to the lowest level as quickly as we possibly can. That’s the mission he’s given us and we’re working with the Iraqis to achieve that.”