US-led coalition will still partner with Iraqi, Kurdish security forces despite base transfers: officials
The US-led coalition will continue to partner with Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS despite cutbacks, officials have confirmed.
Gen. Vincent Barker, CJTF – Operation Inherent Resolve Director of Sustainment flew from Erbil military base to the K1 Air Base in Kirkuk on Sunday.
He supervised the withdrawal of coalition forces from the base, which was formally transferred to Iraqi army control in an official ceremony.
The withdrawal of 300 troops from the base marks the third scaleback of US troops in Iraq this month. Baker previously supervised the withdrawal of coalition forces from al-Qaim base, on the Syrian border, and Qayyarah base in western Iraq.
“What happened today is the Iraqi forces took back K1. This was all due to the success of the Iraqi forces in the defeat against ISIS. Long time coming for cooperation with the Iraqi government we will continue the partnership but this was all due today because of the success of the ISF,” Gen. Barker said on Sunday.
Some 7,500 coalition troops are in Iraq as part of the US-led coalition helping local troops fight the remnants of ISIS, but they have plans to withdraw 2,500 troops from the country.
In an interview with Rudaw on Saturday, Coalition spokesperson Colonel Myles B. Caggins III said the transfer of the base had been planned for “several months.”
“In the coming days, you’ll see coalition forces move out of Kirkuk and Mosul,” he added, citing the success of Iraqi and Kurdish security forces in fighting ISIS.
“The coalition is going to continue to partner with the Iraqi security forces to ensure that ISIS cannot hold physical territory and ISIS is permanently defeated. But we have reached a point where the Iraqi security forces and Peshmerga have proven time and time and time again that they’re successful, even as the Iraqi security forces and Peshmerga are dealing with the challenges of COVID-19,” he added.
He also described “significant investments” made by the coalition in fighting the terror group, noting the four billion dollars given to the Iraqi government.
“We have transferred hundreds of Humvees and trucks. We have provided great training and partnership for the Iraqi air force. We have continued to provide other assistance to help the military in Iraq, and the Syrian Democratic Forces,” he added, referring to the Kurdish-led forces who lead the fight against ISIS in northeast Syria.
Kurds in Kirkuk believe that the withdrawal will pose a big threat to the city’s security, but Iraqi authorities have said there is no fear of ISIS making a comeback in the region.
“We are in collaboration with the Peshmerga and the security forces, and our Iraqi forces are capable and ready to destroy all the terrorist acts of the enemy. I reassure all the civilians in Kirkuk and the other provinces that our forces are ready to destroy any terrorist acts,” said Mohammed Fazel, special envoy to Iraqi President Barham Salih.
However, the Peshmerga have rejected the claim of having any sort of collaboration with Iraqi federal forces.
Since October, there have been 20 missile attacks on bases hosting coalition troops including K-1, by Iranian proxy groups.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran reached boiling point at the beginning of this year following a spate of missile attacks between the US and Kataib Hezbollah, a member of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), known as Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic. Source