TIC Brief l

Background: The presence of U.S. troops in Iraq was the result of an agreement between the Iraqi and US governments in June 2014. The Maliki government had requested the US intervene to push back ISIL but was rebuffed until it had sent a formal request for assistance a week after the fall of Mosul as acknowledged by Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in Congress. Also, the Iraqi government agreed to provide immunity and this was set out with the terms of assistance in an exchange of diplomatic notes between Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State Department. This enabled thousands of US and allied troops to move to Iraq to fight ISIS.

Recent Developments: In December 2019, Iraq and the United States began discussing the partial withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq. In January 2020, following an escalation of tensions between the US and Iran, the Iraqi Council of Representatives voted to expel all foreign troops from their country, including American and Iranian troops. Following the vote, U.S. President Donald Trump initially refused to withdraw from Iraq. In March 2020, the American-led coalition began the transfer of bases back to Iraqi security forces. As of April 11, 2020, six bases have been transferred. Certain troops have also been withdrawn due to the coronavirus pandemic in Iraq.

U.S.-Led Coalition Withdrawal From Iraqi Bases:             Below is the list of six bases from which U.S. led coalition has so far withdrawn from:

  1. On 17 March 20, coalition troops withdrew from the al-Qaim[1] base on the border with Syria.
  2. The U.S.-led coalition on 26 March 20 started pulling out of  Qayara airfield[2] in northern Iraq in line with plans to withdraw from bases across Iraq and consolidate coalition forces in Baghdad and at Ain al-Asad Air Base in the country’s western desert.
  3. Meanwhile the U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq withdrew on 29 March 20 from K-1 airbase[3] in country’s north. A rocket attack on this base in late December had killed an American contractor and led to a series of tit-for-tat attacks between the US and Iran-backed Iraqi militia groups. The attacks culminated in the US-directed killing of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and a senior Iraqi militia leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
  4. On 30 March 20, US troops withdrew from Al-Sqoor base inside Nineveh.
  5. Coalition forces officially handed over control of Al-Taqaddum Air Base[4] to the Iraqi military during a ceremony on 4 April 20. Five-hundred coalition personnel are withdrawing from the Anbar base, which has hosted US marines and troops from Italy, Canada, and Spain since the intervention against the Islamic State (ISIS) began in 2015.
  6. The US-led international coalition tasked with fighting Daesh withdrew from the Abu Ghraib base (located west of the capital Baghdad) on 6 April 20. The Abu Ghraib military base is the sixth base to be handed back to the Iraqi army in just three weeks. The base was used by French troops to train and advise Iraqi security forces in the fight against Daesh.

Where will these withdrawing troops go: US officials have stated that some of the troops being withdrawn from these bases had already been redeployed to coalition positions in neighboring war-ravaged Syria along with artillery, while others would be sent to other bases in Iraq or to Kuwait.


[1] Al-Qaim in Iraq’s Anbar province, west of Baghdad, has been used by US-led coalition troops since 2017 to train and advise Iraqi forces to combat the Islamic State group (ISIS).  It was also used to conduct air operations against the jihadists in their last territorial holdout of Baghouz, eastern Syria, in early 2019.

[2] The sprawling base south of Mosul, known as Q-West, was used by US forces during the Iraq War but was captured by the Islamic State when the group swept across northern Iraq in 2014. The airfield, retaken by the Iraqi and coalition forces in 2016, served as a launch pad in the nine-month battle to liberate the city of Mosul and remains a hub for the Iraqi air force.

[3] K1 has hosted coalition forces since 2017 to launch operations against the ISIL (ISIS) armed group in nearby mountainous areas. Areas south of Kirkuk, and north of neighbouring provinces of Diyala, Salahuddin and Nineveh remain hotbeds of ISIL activities.

[4] Primarily operated by Marines, Taqaddum had hosted U.S., Italian, Canadian and Spanish contingents that trained Iraqi forces since 2015. Marines also staffed an operations center there to assist government forces in the ISIS fight, mainly in Anbar province, including the 2016 capture of Ramadi and Fallujah from the terrorist group.


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