US Forces Return Qayyara Air Base to Iraqi Control, Withdraw From Mosul Area

US forces in Iraq began their withdrawal from a key northern airfield on Thursday, returning Qayyara Air Base to Iraqi control.

With its two 11,000-foot runways capable of handling the largest American bombers and transports, Qayyara West Airfield, about 37 miles south of Mosul, played a key role in the fight against Daesh once it was recaptured from the pseudostate in 2016. Now, US forces have begun the process of leaving the air base, returning it to Iraqi control in a Thursday ceremony.

“As a result of the ISF’s [Iraqi Special Forces] success in their fight against [Daesh], and in conjunction with our partner forces and the Government of Iraq, CJTF-OIR will relocate and consolidate personnel and equipment from several Iraqi bases throughout 2020,” a Thursday statement by Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) reads.

The release did not mention how many troops were involved, but according to a fact sheet provided by the CJTF-OIR Public Affairs Office, there are approximately 800 people stationed on the base, Iraqi, US and French. France announced earlier this week that its 100 troops would be withdrawn from Iraq amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In all, there are 7,500 coalition troops in Iraq, 5,000 of which are American.

The statement notes that the departure includes a transfer of some $1.7 million in equipment to Iraqi forces, consisting mostly of everyday life support facilities like laundries and air compressors, but also communications…

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