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In January 2020, the Iraqi Council of Representatives adopted a non-binding measure to expel all foreign troops from Iraqi territory, including American and Iraqi forces. The decision was made amid massive protests and escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The U.S. President Donald Trump began troops withdrawing in March, following his campaign to end America’s “endless wars”. The similar measures were taken by the U.S. President in Afghanistan.
According to the U.S.-led international coalition, the transfer of it’s military bases to Iraqi security forces was due to the developments in mission against ISIS and not the increasing number of attacks that had targeted American positions.
From the beginning of 2020, the US-led coalition announced the withdrawal of its forces from the following military bases, which were transferred to the Iraqi security forces:
- The US-led coalition said it had handed over the Camp Taji to Iraqi forces on September 23, 2020;
- The US-led coalition said it had handed over the Qayyara air base to Iraqi forces on March 26, 2020;
- The US-led coalition said it had handed over the K1 military base to Iraqi forces on March 29, 2020;
- The U.S.-led coalition said it had handed over the Taqaddum Airbase to Iraqi forces on April 4, 2020.
At the same time, the number of U.S. forces in Iraq remains high – 5200 military troops. It doesn’t include the tens of thousands of US contractors and other privatized personnel that remain there. The transfer of the military bases permitted the U.S. to consolidate its forces in a few large military bases that are still under its control, such as Ain Al-Assad Airbase or Camp Victory.
On September 9, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East Frank McKenzie said that troop numbers in the country will be cut down to 3,000 this month. The next few days will show whether the US is able to fulfill its plan.
Trump’s active actions to withdraw U.S. forces provoke more and more interference from other actors, who have their own interests in the region. France is an illustrative example.
E. Macron proclaimed that France was not going to reduce it’s military forces in the region. About 600 French soldiers are deployed in Iraq and Syria within the Operation Chammal. Since French military presence in Iraq remains law, Paris chose to support Baghdad with economic levers of influence. The following measures were discussed during Macron’s recent visit to Baghdad on September 2.
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