US Starts Pulling out Forces of Iraq Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

US Starts Pulling out Forces of Iraq Amid COVID-19 Outbreak
U.S. Soldiers in the 4th Battalion provide M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles for support to Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) eastern Syria on Nov. 10, 2019 (Spc. DeAndre Pierce /U.S. Army Reserve)

The United States is repositioning forces in Iraq, citing success in its Inherent Resolve campaign against ISIS and the CCP virus concerns as the main reasons.

NTD refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.

In a March 20 press release, the combined joint task force gives two reasons for the tactical retreat: “long-planned adjustments to the force to reflect success in the campaign against Daesh; and, short-term moves to protect the force during the Coronavirus pandemic,” it said.

The statement further read that the Coalition’s military movements are coordinated with the Iraqi forces. However, “the Coalition will retain key military personnel on some Iraqi bases, to ensure the Government of Iraq and our interests are appropriately supported.”

The statement continued by saying the Coalition will keep lending support to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) but from fewer bases and personnel.

Due to safety concerns for troops and civilians amid the COVID-19 outbreak, all training is suspended and some troops will return to their home countries.

Meanwhile, Iraq is taking measures to contain the spread of the CCP virus by prohibiting large public gatherings, implementing a curfew in the capital, and suspending airline flights. According to Johns Hopkins University statistics, Iraq has 266 confirmed cases, and 23 people have died from it.

Inherent Resolve
U.S. Soldiers assigned to 101st Airborne Division trek across charred terrain on Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, June 19, 2019 (Spc. DeAndre Pierce /U.S. Army Reserve)

“The Iraqis have ceased training activity as you might expect in the current circumstances because they aren’t gathering people together,” a senior coalition military official said at a briefing. Training stopped because of the “health risks associated with it,” the official said.

The decision to reduce the Coalition’s footprint in Iraq was conceived in December, the coalition official said, before U.S.-Iraq tensions soared following the Jan. 3 Washington-directed strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani outside Baghdad airport and prompted lawmakers to approve a nonbinding resolution that U.S. troops should leave the country.

Fraught political relations led to a pause in joint operations between the Coalition and Iraqi security forces. At that time, the senior coalition official said Iraq showed it was capable of preventing an IS resurgence by conducting operations alone and delivering training.

That affirmed plans from December to reduce the coalition presence across Iraq and limit assistance to high-level capabilities that Iraqi security forces lack, such as surveillance and air support, the coalition official said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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