US withdraws troops from Iraq’s Taji base

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In this file photo taken on June 16, 2017 American soldiers are seen during NATO Saber Strike military exercises in Orzysz, Poland. Some 18,000 troops from 19 mostly NATO countries begin annual Saber Strike exercises in Poland and the Baltic states on June 3, 2018, run by the US Army Europe to boost combat readiness on the alliance's eastern flank as it faces an ever-more assertive Russia. (AFP)

United States-led international coalition troops withdrew from Iraq’s Taji military base on Sunday and handed it over to Iraqi security forces, Reuters witnesses and the coalition said.

The base, 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Baghdad, had been the site of frequent rocket attacks by Iran-backed militias targeting U.S.-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.

The remaining coalition troops will depart in the coming days after finalizing 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 U.S. President Donald Trump redoubled his promise to withdraw the few U.S. troops still in the country. The U.S. has had about 5,000 troops stationed in the country and coalition allies had a further 2,500.

Iraq’s parliament had voted this year for the departure of foreign troops from Iraq, and the U.S. and other coalition troops have been leaving as part of a drawdown.

The vote came after a U.S. airstrike on the Baghdad airport killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

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