US-led coalition hands over military base near Baghdad

The US-led international coalition forces, tasked with fighting the Islamic State (IS) terror group, has handed over a military base in Taji Camp near Baghdad to Iraqi forces, state-media reported.

“The coalition forces handed over the site No.8 at al-Taji Camp which was used to train and equip Iraqi forces by Australian, New Zealand and American forces,” the Iraqi News Agency (INA) quoted Tahseen al-Khafaji, spokesman of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, as saying on Sunday.

The military site was handed over to the Iraqi forces in the presence of a representative of the prime minister, who signed the minutes of the handover, al-Khafaji said, noting that other sites will be handed over to the Iraqi side according to a timeline.

The Al-Taji Camp is a huge military base containing an airbase where some US troops are stationed, Xinhua news agency reported.

On August 20, the INA reported that the US-led coalition forces will withdraw from Iraq in three years.

During his recent official visit to the US, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi agreed with American officials “on forming a special team to discuss mechanisms and timings for the redeployment of the US-led international coalition forces outside Iraq”.

On Aug.ust18, al-Kadhimi and his delegation headed to Washington at an official invitation of the US government, during which he held a series of meetings and attended the second session of strategic dialogue between the two countries.

Earlier, the international coalition forces handed over several military sites to the Iraqi security forces in central and northern the country.

The relation between Baghdad and Washington has witnessed a tension since January 3 after a US drone struck a convoy at Baghdad airport, which killed Qasem Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq’s paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces.

The tension pushed the two sides to hold a round of strategic dialogues on June 12, during which the US confirmed that it does not seek permanent military presence in the country and that over the coming months Washington would continue reducing forces from Iraq and discuss with the government of Iraq the status of remaining forces.

Over 5,000 US troops have been deployed in Iraq to support Iraqi forces in battles against the IS, mainly for training and advisory purposes.