US-Led Forces Leave 3rd Iraqi Base 03/29 09:35
The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq withdrew on Sunday from a military base in
the country's north that nearly launched Washington into an open war with
BAGHDAD (AP) -- The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq withdrew on Sunday from a
military base in the country's north that nearly launched Washington into an
open war with neighboring Iran.
The K1 Air Base is the third site coalition forces have left this month, in
line with U.S. plans to consolidate its troops in two locations in Iraq.
A rocket attack on the base in late December killed one American contractor
and lead to a series of tit-for-tat attacks between the U.S. and Iran-backed
Iraqi militia groups. The attacks culminated in the U.S.-directed killing of
top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and a senior Iraqi militia leader, Abu Mahdi
Coalition forces handed over the K1 base in the northern Iraqi province of
Kirkuk to Iraq's military, according to a coalition statement. At least $1.1
million of equipment was transferred to the Iraqis as 300 coalition personnel
K1 has hosted coalition forces since 2017 to launch operations against the
Islamic State group in nearby mountainous areas. Areas south of Kirkuk, and
north of neighboring provinces of Diyala, Salahaddin and Nineveh remain hotbeds
of IS activity.
The stretch of territory is also disputed between the federal Iraqi
government and the autonomous Kurdish region, which has created security gaps
benefiting IS militants. The coalition's presence had at times been a mediating
force between the two competing authorities.
A senior coalition official earlier this month claimed IS forces weren't as
able to exploit the "security gap" between Iraqi and Kurdish forces, as the
militants did in the past.
"That doesn't necessarily mean that Daesh is free to operate in the way that
they wish," said the official, using the Arabic acronym for the IS group.
"They're still pretty constrained."
The coalition official was speaking on condition of anonymity in line with
U.S.-led forces have already withdrawn this month from the Qayara base in
Nineveh province followed by the Qaim base near the border with Syria. All were
in line with plans to pull out from bases across Iraq and consolidate coalition
forces in Baghdad and at the Ain al-Asad Air Base in the country's western
The plan has been in the works since late last year, the senior coalition
military official said, and accelerated when Iraqi forces proved they were
capable of facing the threat from the IS with limited coalition assistance.
Coalition officials said they would still assist Iraqi forces with air
support and surveillance, but significantly cut back on training and ground
operations, as the limited withdrawal continues.
Until last month, there were some 7,500 coalition troops based in Iraq,
including 5,000 U.S. forces.