An independent US base in Iraq's Ain al-Assad

An independent US base in Iraq's Ain al-Assad
Analysis: Iraqi sources say the US military has established it own base inside an Iraqi airforce base west of Baghdad, complete with its own runway. The base is off limits to even senior Iraqi staff.
3 min read
15 March, 2015
US troops are training Iraqi soldiers near Baghdad [AFP]

An Iraqi army officer and Sunni tribal leaders in western Iraq have told al-Araby al-Jadeed about a "small" US base with hundreds of soldiers and officers inside the Iraqi Ain al-Assad airbase, approximately 180 kilometres west of Baghdad.

It was recently established by the US as an independent base inside the main base, which is used as the headquarters of the Iraqi army's seventh division ground forces.

"The new US base is in the southern part of the 25 square kilometre Ain al-Assad airbase. US military personnel based there are providing support and counselling to Iraqi troops, and training tribal members,” a senior Iraqi army officer told al-Araby al-Jadeed, speaking on condition of anionymity.

The office explained that the small seven square kilometre US base includes one of the three fighter jets runways in Ain al-Assad, one of which is out of service. It is equipped with rooms, halls and houses, that are surrounded by barbed wire fences. "The base has three US army helicopters; one is Chinook for transporting troops and two are Apache combat helicopters,” he added.

     The Iraqi army officer estimates that there are around 400 US military personnel in the new base.

The Iraqi army officer estimates that there are around 400 US military personnel in the new base, who have no contact with Iraqi personnel in the main base. They do not leave their base except to train Iraqi troops or for workouts and other activities, he added.

The information revealed by the Iraqi officer was confirmed by the leader of the Jaghaifa tribe, that comes from a modern city near the base.

"No Iraqi, no matter how high his position, can enter the new base without an official permit. That includes the commander of the seventh division Brigadier General Majid al-Luhaibi, and Major General Diaa Kazem Dabous, commander of the Jazeera and desert operations that oversee military operations with Jordan and Syria in the western part of Iraq", the tribal leader told al-Araby al-Jadeed by phone.

The tribal leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the information, said the US base receives military aid and supplies, as well as other logistics, by air from Jordan, not Baghdad. This is because of geographical proximity, and because the route is safer than flying over six towns controlled by the Islamic State group (IS), including al-Karma, Fallujah and Hayt.

"Only one meeting has been held inside the new base between US military personnel and tribal leaders, including myself, but this was before the area was surrounded by a high barbed wire fence and became a base within a base," the tribal leader added.

In an interview by al-Araby al-Jadeed, Sheikh Majid al-Ubaidi, a leading figure in the tribal awakening forces, did not deny the existence of the new base in western Iraq, but he said its description was exaggerated.

"What is located inside the Ain al-Assad air base is merely a special wing or section for the security and comfort of US military personnel," he explained. He argued that the barbed wire fence and banning of non-US citizens is only a security measure.

"US troops take part in the Iraqi army's missions, and it is only natural to give them a base", said Ubaidi.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.