Coalition countries withdraw some troops from Iraq amid COVID-19 outbreak
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Several European countries and the United Kingdom have started to temporarily withdraw troops from Iraq after the NATO and Coalition training missions were suspended to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus.
On March 16, Commanding General of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), Lieutenant General Pat White, announced the suspension of training in Iraq until May 11, 2020, the German Army’s website said.
Col. Myles B. Caggins III, spokesperson for the US-led coalition, formally known as CJTF-OIR, told Kurdistan 24 that the coalition would “temporarily return some of its training-focused forces to their own countries in the coming days and weeks.”
“The Coalition remains committed to the lasting defeat of ISIS through our partnership with the ISF, and as the situation permits, we will resume our support to Iraqi training,” he added.
“As some training troops have departed Iraq, each nation issued statements indicating their intent to resume anti-ISIS training after the coronavirus crises passes.”
The Dutch government announced on March 24 that 35 of 40 Dutch soldiers in Erbil and Baghdad would be temporarily withdrawn as training activities have been halted due to the coronavirus.
The move is part of a broader Dutch decision to withdraw troops abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic that suspended training activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Burkina Faso.
“A part of them will certainly return,” Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten informed the parliament on March 24.
According to a report by Jane’s Intelligence, France, Spain, and Portugal all began to temporarily withdraw forces last week.
The Czech military also temporarily withdrew forces that are part of both the NATO and Coalition training mission, the Prague Morning reported on March 25.
Britain has also started to redeploy some troops from Iraq, the UK government announced on March 19.
On Sunday, the German Ministry of Defense announced it would temporarily move some troops stationed to train Kurdish Peshmerga forces from Erbil to Germany.
The German army also published a video on Twitter showing its soldiers leaving the Kurdistan Region.
Video shows Germany sending a number of soldiers home from Erbil.— Wladimir (@vvanwilgenburg) March 29, 2020
The @CJTFOIR commander in Baghdad has suspended the training from 16 March until 11 May 2020 over coronavirus fears. Therefore, Germany pulled out some troopspic.twitter.com/xIjKEdI6ET
However, Germany said it would remain in Iraq with a reduced troop presence. France, though, said it would withdraw all 100 troops from Iraq, Reuters reported.
The US-led coalition’s training mission in Iraq, which includes the Kurdistan Region, started to train troops in Iraq in 2014 amid the rise of the so-called Islamic State. Meanwhile, the NATO-training mission in Iraq started in 2018 to further develop Iraq’s security institutions.
The withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq comes as coronavirus infections worldwide on Monday reached over 634,000 and a total of 29,891 deaths, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany