Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

UK Pulls Out Some Troops from Iraq over Virus

UK Pulls Out Some Troops from Iraq over Virus

Thursday, 19 March, 2020 - 13:00
People wearing protective face masks in Westminster as the number of coronavirus cases grow around the world. London, Britain, March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Britain is withdrawing some of its troops from a global training mission in Iraq over coronavirus concerns, the defense ministry said on Thursday.

The decision to redeploy was made because there had been a "reduced requirement for training" from the Iraqi security forces and a pause in coalition and NATO training missions.

"The Ministry of Defense has therefore decided to redeploy some of its personnel back to the United Kingdom," it said in a statement.

The announcement came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said on Thursday that the British government has no plans to bring in blanket travel restrictions for London or to close down the capital's transport system.

"There is zero prospect of any restriction being placed on travelling in or out of London," the spokesman said.

He said police would keep responsibility for maintaining law and order and there were no plans to use the military for this purpose.

Britain has been working alongside coalition partners in Iraq since 2014 to train Iraqi security forces but the program has been "paused" for 60 days as a precaution because of COVID-19.

Key UK military personnel will remain in Iraq supporting the government in Baghdad, the coalition and UK interests, the defense ministry said.

Troops brought home could be redeployed elsewhere in the world, but could also be asked to support family members affected by the outbreak, which has claimed more than 100 lives in Britain.

Defense Minister Ben Wallace said: "In recent months the tempo of training has significantly declined, which means that I am in a position to bring back the current training unit to the UK.

"There remains a significant footprint of UK Armed Forces within the coalition and elsewhere," he added, promising London would remain committed to the "complete defeat" of ISIS remnants.

Editor Picks