US-led Coalition transfers al-Qaim base to ISF, amid broader redeployment

The US-led Coalition has announced the transfer of authority over the al-Qaim base in western Iraq to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF.)
author_image Laurie Mylroie

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - The US-led Coalition has announced the transfer of authority over the al-Qaim base in western Iraq to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF.)

The coalition, formally known as Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Iraqi Resolve (CJTF-OIR), held a base transfer ceremony on Wednesday, as Brig. Gen. Vincent Barker, CJTF-OIR Director of Sustainment, visited the site to turn over control to the 8th Iraqi Army.

Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that CJTF-OIR was redeploying from three smaller bases, including al-Qaim, to bigger bases in Iraq, as well as to Syria and Kuwait.

The two other smaller bases that the Post said coalition forces would be leaving are K-1, outside Kirkuk, and “Key West” (of course, it meant Q-West, south of Mosul.)

Contacted by Kurdistan 24, CJTF-OIR Spokesperson, Col. Myles Caggins, declined to confirm any planned departures from those two bases, saying rather “more information would be forthcoming, and Q-West and K-1 are among the bases Coalition troops might depart this spring.”

Asked whether CJTF-OIR forces redeploying from smaller bases in Iraq might be transferring to the Kurdistan Region, he would not exclude that possibility.

Analysts, like Nicholas Heras, Middle East Portfolio Manager at Washington’s Institute for the Study of War, have long advocated a closer security relationship between the US and the Kurdistan Region.

The Kurdistan Region is “a safe space for US forces,” Heras wrote in a recent opinion piece for Kurdistan 24. “They are able to launch operations against the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, while the Kurds of Iraq have shown themselves to be excellent local partners for US policymakers, as well as US military officers.” 

Read More: No Better Friends: The US-Kurdistan Region Security Partnership 

Speaking March 17 at the ceremony marking the transfer of authority at the al-Qaim base, fast on Iraq’s border with Syria, Brig. Gen. Barker hailed the camp’s role in the territorial defeat of the Islamic State.

Coalition forces gather to have lunch provided by Brig. Gen. Ali Abdalwahid Jassim at al-Qaim Base, Iraq, March 17, 2020. (Photo: CJTF-OIR)
Coalition forces gather to have lunch provided by Brig. Gen. Ali Abdalwahid Jassim at al-Qaim Base, Iraq, March 17, 2020. (Photo: CJTF-OIR)

Al-Qaim was captured by the terrorist organization in 2014. Three years later, it was liberated by the Iraqi army in a battle lasting several months—from late October to early December 2017.

Subsequently, the al-Qaim camp played a key role in liberating the Syrian town of Baghouz, across the Euphrates River. The Battle of Baghouz, in February and March of 2019, marked the last step in the territorial defeat of the terrorist group.

As Barker affirmed, “Al-Qaim base served as a critical location in the fight against Daesh,” the Arabic acronym for the so-called Islamic State. “First, as the Iraqi Security Forces liberated the al-Qaim region from an evil presence, and later as a valuable base during the Battle for Baghouz.”

“As a result of the ISF’s success in their fight against ISIS, and in conjunction with our partner forces and the Government of Iraq,” Barker continued, “CJTF-OIR will relocate and consolidate personnel and equipment from several Iraqi bases throughout 2020.”

“Coalition troops will depart al-Qaim base after the completion of equipment transfers to Iraqi Security Forces, in the coming days,” he concluded.

Editing by John J. Catherine