U.S.-led int’l coalition hands over military base to Iraqi forces

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BAGHDAD, July 25 (Xinhua) — The U.S.-led international coalition forces, tasked with fighting the Islamic State (IS) militant group, on Saturday handed over to the Iraqi security forces a new military base of Basmaya near the Iraqi capital Baghdad, the official news agency and coalition statement said.

“The handover of the Spanish forces’ base, which is part of the international coalition, in Basmaya Camp to Iraqi forces came according to an agreed timetable between the Iraqi government and the coalition command,” the state-run Iraqi News Agency quoted Tahsin al-Khafaji, spokesman of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC), as saying.

“This is the seventh military site that was handed over from the international coalition to Iraqi forces,” al-Khafaji said.

“The Spanish forces in the site had trained the Iraqi security forces and will leave Iraq after they have completed their duty,” he said.

Meanwhile, a coalition statement said that a ceremony was held in Basmaya Camp in the southeast of Baghdad on the occasion of handing over the military site to the Iraqi forces.

“Due to Iraqi security forces’ success in the campaign against Daesh (IS group), the coalition is adjusting its positioning and focus in Iraq. These military movements are long-planned in coordination with the government of Iraq,” the statement said.

“Today marks the seventh base this year transferred to the Iraqi security forces, as part of an ongoing partnership between the Iraqi security forces and the anti-IS international military coalition,” the statement quoted Maj. Gen. Gerald Strickland as saying.

The statement also said that the coalition “will continue to relocate and consolidate personnel and equipment from Iraqi bases throughout 2020, in cooperation with the government of Iraq.”

The handover ceremony came a day after four Katyusha rockets landed in the military base of Basmaya without causing human casualty.

Spanish forces are part of a U.S.-led international coalition tasked with helping the Iraqi security forces in the fight against IS militants by carrying out airstrikes against the IS in Iraq and Syria and providing military equipment and training to Iraqi forces.

The relation between Baghdad and Washington has witnessed a tension since Jan. 3 after a U.S. drone struck a convoy at Baghdad airport, which killed Qassem 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 United States confirmed that it does not seek permanent military presence in the country and that over the coming months the U.S. would continue reducing forces from Iraq and discuss with the government of Iraq the status of remaining forces.

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

The troops were part of the U.S.-led international coalition that has also been conducting air raids against IS targets in both Iraq and Syria. Enditem

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