US troops and their allies have withdrawn from the Taji base north of Iraq’s capital Baghdad and handed it over to Iraqi security forces.
The pullout took place on Sunday following several rocket attacks targeting the military base.
“The movement of coalition military personnel is part of a long-range plan coordinated with the government of Iraq,” the US military said in a statement, adding that the Taji base held up to 2,000 forces, most of whom departed this summer.
The remaining US troops, it said, will depart in the coming days after finalizing the handing over of equipment to Iraqi security forces.
The US military further said that Sunday’s withdrawal was the eighth transfer of a foreign portion of an Iraqi base back to local forces.
Major General Tahseen al-Khafaji, the spokesperson for Iraq’s joint operations, confirmed that the Taji base “was being used to train, prepare, and rehabilitate the Iraqis by Australian, New Zealand, and American forces.”
“It will now be dedicated for the usage of the Iraqi security forces,” he told the Iraqi News Agency.
Meanwhile, al-Dijlah TV reported that Taji’s training sites had been handed over to the Iraqis and the remaining sites will follow as scheduled.
Anti-US sentiment has been running high in Iraq since Washington assassinated top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and the second-in-command of the Iraqi popular mobilization units, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in January.
Following the attack, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill on January 5, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign troops.
More than 17 years after the US invasion of Iraq, President Donald Trump said Thursday the United States would eventually withdraw all American troops from the conflict-ridden nation, though he did not provide a timetable.
“At some point, we obviously will be gone,” Trump said in his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. “We look forward to the day when we don’t have to be there,” he added before the two men met privately.
There are currently about 5,000 troops in Iraq. Their assignments include alleged counter-terrorism operations and training Iraqi security forces.
Throughout their battle with foreign-backed terrorists, several Iraqi officials and military commanders came forth to reveal that US troops were in fact assisting the terrorists.
Trump told reporters before his meeting with the Iraqi leader that the US military had very few troops left in Iraq, but was there to help the country if neighboring Iran should do anything.
He said US companies were involved in many prospects in Iraq’s oil business, as al-Kadhimi declared his country open for American businesses and investment.
Al-Kadhimi took office in May amid growing tensions between the United States and Iraq.
Iraq’s government objected to the Trump-authorized drone strike in January while Gen. Soleimani was visiting Baghdad.
The assassination inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq and prompted calls for the withdrawal of US troops.
Trump threatened Iraq with sanctions if the country’s leaders followed through on threats to expel US forces over the drone strike.
Armed Iraqi factions on Thursday threatened to target US interests in the country after Trump declined to give a timetable for US withdrawal from Iraq during an Oval Office meeting with al-Kadhimi.
A statement issued by armed groups calling themselves the “Resistance Factions” criticized the agenda of al-Kadhimi’s meetings which did not include the immediate implementation of the decision to remove US troops from the country.
“Al-Kadhimi must make the implementation of the decision of the Iraqi people his top priority,” the statement said.