The U.S. military has handed over the Qayyarah Airfield West base, which is located just over 30 miles south of Mosul, Iraq.
Operation Inherent Resolve — the U.S.-led mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria — cited progress in the fight against ISIS as the reason for the base transfer. OIR said Iraqi forces are “increasingly” conducting independent operations.
“Today marks another milestone for the anti-ISIS international military Coalition and our Iraqi Security Forces partners,” Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Barker, the OIR director of sustainment, said in a news release.
“The Qayyarah base served as a strategic launching point for the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] and Coalition during the Battle of Mosul. In particular, the base serves as a hub for the Iraqi air force, who continue to deliver lethal strikes on Daesh bed-down locations," Barker said in the release.
The coalition says it plans to continue to consolidate force from a smaller outposts throughout Iraq during 2020.
In mid-March, OIR handed over a small strategic base located near the Iraq-Syria border known as al-Qaim.
The coalition is still in Iraq, but plans to operate from fewer outposts. Army Col. Myles B. Caggins III, a spokesman for OIR, tweeted Thursday that “100s of training troops are departing temporarily for COVID-19 safety.”
The U.S. military says some coalition troops will draw down in Iraq and return home as Iraqi forces have halted all training over fears of spreading COVID-19.
The U.K. announced March 19 it was pulling some of its forces from Iraq following a suspension of training across the country over the last 60-days. The U.K. detailed in a news release that it will keep “key military” service members in Iraq to carry on the anti-ISIS campaign.
“In recent months the tempo of training has significantly declined, which means that I am in a position to bring back the current training unit to the UK,” British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, said in a news release.
“There remains a significant footprint of UK Armed Forces within the coalition and elsewhere. We are committed to building Iraq’s security capacity through our membership of the Global Coalition that has proved so effective and will continue to support the Iraqi Government in achieving stability,” Wallace said.
“Today’s transfer was coordinated with the Government of Iraq and is possible thanks to the efforts and successes of our ISF partners,” Barker said.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.