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US-led coalition withdraws from another Nineveh base in Iraq, hands it over to Iraqi army

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Military vehicles are pictured at a former presidential palace turned into an Iraqi base where some forces of the US-led coalition were stationed in Mosul in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh during a handover ceremony to Iraqi forces on March 30, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

The US-led military coalition purportedly formed to fight the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group has pulled out of another base in Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh and handed it over to the Arab country’s government forces.

The media office of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a statement on Monday that the alliance handed over the military site to the Ministry of Defense.

“As a result of fruitful dialogues between the Iraqi government and the international alliance, a site occupied by the International Alliance Mission and within a camp under the Nineveh Operations Command was returned to Iraqi forces after the coalition forces withdrew from it,” the statement read.

US troops from the Combined Joint Task Force talk to Iraqi soldiers at a presidential palace turned into an Iraqi base where some forces of the coalition were stationed in Mosul in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh during a handover ceremony to Iraqi forces on March 30, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

It added, “The move came in accordance with the coalition's commitment to return the sites it has been occupying within the Iraqi military bases and camps.”

The development came only a day after US-led coalition forces withdrew from K1 Air Base, which lies 15 kilometers (9 miles) northwest of Kirkuk, and submitted it to Iraqi forces during a ceremony.

“Given the successes achieved by the Iraqi security forces in the campaign against Daesh, the coalition is redeploying its forces to other positions in Iraq. Such movements had been planned a long time ago with the Iraqi government,” the US-led alliance said in a statement on Sunday.

The coalition further alleged that the transfer of US-led military forces had nothing to do with the missile attacks against Iraqi bases hosting the coalition forces, or the outbreak of COVID-19 – the disease caused by the highly contagious new coronavirus, in Iraq.

The US-led forces had already withdrawn this month from a base in Nineveh province followed by another one near the border with Syria.

An unnamed Iraqi security source told the Arabic service of Russia’s Sputnik news agency on March 26 that forces from the US-led alliance had departed Qayyarah Airfield West, which lies some 70 kilometers (43.4 miles) south of Mosul in Nineveh, and handed it over to Iraqi government troops.

On March 17, troops from the US-led coalition pulled out from al-Qa’im base in western Iraq on the border with Syria.

The departure of American forces comes as French troops in the US-led military coalition had already left Iraq on March 25.

Major General Abdul Karim Khalaf, the spokesman for the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces, told the official Iraqi News Agency that “French troops had left the Iraqi territory, and that the US-led coalition had cleared the air base.”

“Their departure comes under agreements conducted with the Iraqi government,” Khalaf added without elaborating.

Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill on January 5, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country following the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) – better known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, and their companions in a US airstrike authorized by President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport two days earlier.

Later on January 9, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the former Iraqi prime minister, called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the move.

According to a statement released by his office at the time, Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament's decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The 78-year-old politician said Iraq rejects any violation of its sovereignty, particularly the US military's violation of Iraqi airspace in the assassination airstrike.

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