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US-Led Forces Leave 3rd Iraqi Base     03/29 09:35

   The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq withdrew on Sunday from a military base in 
the country's north that nearly launched Washington into an open war with 
neighboring Iran.

   BAGHDAD (AP) -- The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq withdrew on Sunday from a 
military base in the country's north that nearly launched Washington into an 
open war with neighboring Iran.

   The K1 Air Base is the third site coalition forces have left this month, in 
line with U.S. plans to consolidate its troops in two locations in Iraq.

   A rocket attack on the base in late December killed one American contractor 
and lead to a series of tit-for-tat attacks between the U.S. and Iran-backed 
Iraqi militia groups. The attacks culminated in the U.S.-directed killing of 
top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and a senior Iraqi militia leader, Abu Mahdi 

   Coalition forces handed over the K1 base in the northern Iraqi province of 
Kirkuk to Iraq's military, according to a coalition statement. At least $1.1 
million of equipment was transferred to the Iraqis as 300 coalition personnel 

   K1 has hosted coalition forces since 2017 to launch operations against the 
Islamic State group in nearby mountainous areas. Areas south of Kirkuk, and 
north of neighboring provinces of Diyala, Salahaddin and Nineveh remain hotbeds 
of IS activity. 

   The stretch of territory is also disputed between the federal Iraqi 
government and the autonomous Kurdish region, which has created security gaps 
benefiting IS militants. The coalition's presence had at times been a mediating 
force between the two competing authorities. 

   A senior coalition official earlier this month claimed IS forces weren't as 
able to exploit the "security gap" between Iraqi and Kurdish forces, as the 
militants did in the past.

   "That doesn't necessarily mean that Daesh is free to operate in the way that 
they wish," said the official, using the Arabic acronym for the IS group. 
"They're still pretty constrained." 

   The coalition official was speaking on condition of anonymity in line with 

   U.S.-led forces have already withdrawn this month from the Qayara base in 
Nineveh province followed by the Qaim base near the border with Syria. All were 
in line with plans to pull out from bases across Iraq and consolidate coalition 
forces in Baghdad and at the Ain al-Asad Air Base in the country's western 

   The plan has been in the works since late last year, the senior coalition 
military official said, and accelerated when Iraqi forces proved they were 
capable of facing the threat from the IS with limited coalition assistance.

   Coalition officials said they would still assist Iraqi forces with air 
support and surveillance, but significantly cut back on training and ground 
operations, as the limited withdrawal continues.

   Until last month, there were some 7,500 coalition troops based in Iraq, 
including 5,000 U.S. forces.


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