Coronavirus: US-led coalition forces in Iraq reposition amid pandemic and Iran threat

To prevent potential spread of Covid-19, the Iraqi Security Forces have suspended all training

FILE - In this Aug. 20, 2017 file photo, U.S. Army soldiers stands next to a guided-missile launcher, a few miles from the frontline, in the village of Abu Ghaddur, east of Tal Afar, Iraq.  American troops have started to draw down from Iraq following Baghdad’s declaration of victory over the Islamic State group last year, according to western contractors at a U.S.-led coalition base in Iraq. (AP Photo/Balint Szlanko, File)
Powered by automated translation

The US-led coalition forces in Iraq have repositioned, following an increase in attacks on their air bases in the country this year and the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

In a statement on Friday, Operation Inherent Resolve - the coalition military intervention in Iraq and Syria against ISIS -  said that the measures were being taken in co-ordination with Iraq’s government.

In December 2017, ISIS lost 95 per cent of its territory in Iraq and coalition forces and Baghdad declared victory over the terror group in the Middle Eastern country.

The US also claimed victory over ISIS in Syria in March last year in the village of Baghouz near the Iraq border, leading to the Qaim crossing opening with Iraq in September.

Although small in number, ISIS militants remain in pockets of both countries but the coalition has turned its attention to other threats in Iraq.

The tension has escalated in the country since the US killed Iran’s top military general Qassem Suleimani in a targeted drone strike in January. There have been several attacks on coalition bases in Iraq since, which the US has blamed on Iran and militias in Iraq it backs.

One attack on March 14 killed two American troops and one British soldier. The next day, the United States carried out several air strikes against an Iran-backed milita in Iraq it blamed for the attack.

In response, the coalition said it anticipating supporting the Iraqi Security Forces from fewer bases with fewer people.

“As a result of the success of ISF in their fight against ISIS, the Coalition is repositioning troops from a few smaller bases. These bases remain under Iraqi control and we will continue our advising partnership for the permanent defeat of Daesh from other Iraqi military bases, providing much-needed specialist support,” the coalition said in a statement.

“To prevent potential spread of Covid-19, the Iraqi Security Forces have suspended all training. As a result, the Coalition will temporarily return some of its training-focused forces to their own countries in the coming days and weeks. The Coalition remains committed to the lasting defeat of ISIS through our partnership with the ISF, and as the situation permits, we will resume our support to Iraqi training,”

The coalition will retain key military personnel on some Iraqi bases.

“We remain partnered and collaborate closely with Iraqi Security Forces at headquarters, for joint base security, tactical information sharing, and operations against Daesh,” it added.

Iraq is not currently a major centre of the Covid-19 outbreak, but its neighbouring Iran is, with 19.644 cases and 1,433 deaths, including several government officials.