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US-led coalition passes control of Al-Taqaddum Air Base to Iraqi military

Coalition forces officially handed over control of Al-Taqaddum Air Base to the Iraqi military during a ceremony on Saturday.

Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasoul, spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, tweeted news of the coalition departure.

Five-hundred coalition personnel are withdrawing from the Anbar base, which has hosted US marines and troops from Italy, Canada, and Spain since the intervention against the Islamic State (ISIS) began in 2015.

“The transfer of Taqaddum (Habbaniya) air base is another step forward in the ongoing partnership between Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and the anti-ISIS international military coalition,” said Brig. Gen. Vincent Barker, Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) director of sustainment, in a press release.

Separately, OIR spokesman US Colonel Myles Caggins III said the coalition is transferring $3.5 million-worth of property to the Iraqi government.

This is the fifth base the coalition has handed over to the Iraqi armed forces in recent weeks, following K1 in Kirkuk, al-Qaim near the Syrian border, Qayyarah in western Iraq, and al-Sqoor inside Mosul.

The coalition has repeatedly said the decision to reposition troops was “long-planned” and is not related to recent attacks on “Iraqi bases hosting coalition troops, or the ongoing COVID-19 situation in Iraq.”

“This wouldn’t be possible without the ISF’s proven capability to bring the fight to ISIS. The coalition will continue to support our partners against the evils of Daesh,” Barker added, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

The withdrawals follow months of tensions between the US and Iran. A US drone strike on Baghdad airport in January, which killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and pro-Iran militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, prompted a flurry of missile strikes and rocket attacks on bases housing US troops across Iraq.

The Iraqi government has long promised to capture the groups behind the attacks. To date, no one has been held responsible.

The New York Times revealed last week that US military commanders have been ordered to prepare to “destroy” Kataib Hezbollah – a pro-Iran Iraq militia thought to be behind multiple rocket attacks on US personnel.

The US has deployed Patriot air defense batteries to Ain al-Assad military base in Anbar province and another to Erbil. Source