Baghdad, March 17 (IANS) The US army is pulling out of the al-Qaim and two other key military bases in Iraq in the coming weeks, it was reported.
The decision to leave three of its eight bases in Iraq was a sign the US is looking to dramatically reduce its footprint in the country, the BBC said in a report on Monday.
A ceremony will take place this week at al-Qaim, where the US will formally hand over equipment to the Iraqi army to help it ensure security in the area.
It will end any US presence along the Iraqi side of the border with Syria.
The base is built on the ruins of one of Iraq’s oldest train stations, near a tiny town of the same name along the Euphrates river.
The area was the first place in Iraq to fall into the hands of the Islamic State group (IS) in 2014 and one of the last taken back by Iraqi forces in November 2017.
After the victory against the IS in the area, Iranian-backed militia groups took control of both sides of the border.
Although Iraqi security forces have also had a presence around al-Qaim, it was now mainly under the control of one of those militia groups, the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) or the Hashd Shaab.
A senior US defence official told the BBC that the proximity of Kataib Hezbollah, another Iraqi paramilitary group, to the base was “a key factor within the calculation of the decision to move forces elsewhere”.
At least 25 rocket attacks, unleashing more than 160 individual rockets, have hit US bases in Iraq since October 2019.
Last week, two attacks on the Taji base killed three coalition members, and severely wounded two members of the Iraqi security forces.
The official number of US troops in Iraq has been estimated at up to 5,200.