Pentagon: Withdrawal of Coalition Forces from Iraq Aims to Limit Virus Outbreak
A Pentagon spokesman has confirmed that troops with the coalition fighting ISIS terrorist group in Iraq will resume their operations, which have been suspended over the coronavirus outbreak, as soon as the situation allows.
Commander Sean Robertson told Asharq Al-Awsat in remarks published Saturday that coalition forces are temporarily withdrawing their troops after Iraqi forces suspended training programs to stop the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
Asked about France’s withdrawal of its contingent of troops from Iraq, Robertson said it was up to the French defense ministry to respond to such questions.
But he confirmed that the US continues to cooperate closely with its partners in the coalition.
He also stressed the coalition’s commitment on the exchange of intelligence with Iraqi forces to help defeat the remnants of ISIS.
The US mission said on Thursday that “due to a combination of security conditions and restricted travel options as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the State Department has ordered the departure of designated US Government employees at the US Embassy in Baghdad, the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center, and the US Consulate General in Erbil.”
“The US government has limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in Iraq,” it said in a statement.
It recommended a series of actions if a US citizen in Iraq is on a temporary visit and desires assistance to return to the US when a flight is available.
It said actions to take, include departing Iraq by commercial transportation as soon as possible, monitoring local media for updates, and reviewing personal security plans.
Their advisory came after two rockets slammed early Thursday into the Iraqi capital's high-security Green Zone where the US Embassy is based.
The US has blamed the attack and similar other attacks on Iran-backed Kataeb Hezbollah.