U.S.-led troops have been withdrawn from Iraq’s Taji base, coming after missile attacks earlier this year, as the facility was handed over to Iraqi security forces over the weekend.
The coalition confirmed the development on Sunday in a statement.
“The movement of coalition military personnel is part of a long-range plan coordinated with the government of Iraq,” the Combined Joint Task Force—Operation Inherent Resolve said.
The statement added that Camp Taji, located about 50 miles north of Baghdad, the capital, is a prime location for training. Coalition troops were sent there to combat the rise of the ISIS terrorist group in Iraq and Syria, but the base came under attack from Iran-backed militias in the region, who fired rockets at the facility several times in 2020.
“This is truly a historic day,” said Maj. Gen. Kenneth Ekman, the deputy commander of the task force. “For the past six years, Camp Taji has served as a primary installation for Coalition partners to train the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Air Force, and the Qwat al-Khasah. The Coalition’s efforts have enabled the Iraqis to train themselves. From this day forward, the ISF will take full responsibility for the facilities and programs at Taji and continue to use the site to lead and conduct training as part of the mission to defeat Daesh remnants.”
The coalition said that some 2,000 coalition members historically were stationed at Camp Taji, but many of them departed over the summer. The remaining coalition troops will depart in the coming days after the base and equipment is handed over to Iraqi security forces.
Sunday’s announcement marks the eighth transfer of a coalition portion of an Iraqi base back to Iraqi forces.
The withdrawal just days after President Donald Trump, in a meeting with Iraq’s prime minister, stated that he would withdraw American soldiers from Iraq. The United States has approximately 5,000 soldiers in Iraq, while about 2,500 coalition troops are still there.
“This is what success looks like,” said Australian Brig. Gen. Simon Johnstone, CJTF-OIR director of strategy, in a statement. “The transfer of bases like Taji is part of our campaign plan for the ISF to secure their own future and defend Iraqi sovereignty. The tremendous efforts by the ISF and the Coalition demonstrate our shared commitment from the Coalition and Australia to ensure safety, security, and stability for Iraqi citizens.”
Earlier this year, in the midst of heightened Iran-U.S. tensions, Iraq’s parliament voted for the departure of American and other foreign troops from Iraq. The vote came after the United States authorized the airstrike of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, who officials said killed hundreds of U.S. troops over the years and was plotting more attacks on American assets in the region. Iran then launched a volley of rockets at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces, causing dozens of minor injures.