France to withdraw troops from Iraq over coronavirus fears

France to withdraw troops from Iraq over coronavirus fears
French trainers working with local armed forced will be pulled out of Iraq over coronavirus fears, Paris confirmed on Wednesday.
2 min read
26 March, 2020
The US-led coalition has already started repositioning in the country [Getty]
France will withdraw its contingent of troops from Iraq, mostly trainers to local armed forces, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the chief of staff said on Wednesday.

France has around 200 military personnel working in Iraq either as trainers or in the headquarters of coalition forces in Baghdad.

"In coordination with the Iraqi government, the coalition has decided to adjust its deployments in Iraq and provisionally suspend training activities," it said in a statement.

The UK defence ministry had already announced some of its troops would come home, citing a "reduced requirement for training" Iraqi security forces.

Read also: The Iraq Report: Iraq still in chaos 17 years after US invasion

Iraq's military had halted all training in early March to minimise the risk of the illness spreading among its forces, including from the US-led coalition helping fight remnants of the Islamic State group.

Earlier this month, US officials and the coalition said it would redeploy hundreds of troops from bases in Iraq, Just hours after an attack reportedly struck an Iraq base housing foreign forces.

"The coalition is re-positioning troops from a few smaller bases," said coalition spokesman Myles Caggins.

Some had already been redeployed to coalition positions in neighbouring war-ravaged Syria along with artillery, while others would be sent to other bases in Iraq or to Kuwait.

The official denied that the redeployment was a response to a spike over the last week in rocket attacks targeting foreign troops stationed across Iraq.

Some 5,200 US forces are positioned across Iraq and form the bulk of the coalition set up in 2014 to help local forces battle the Islamic State jihadist group.

They are deployed at about a dozen bases in Iraq alongside local forces.

In January, Iraq's parliament voted to oust all foreign forces from the country after a US drone strike in Baghdad killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and the Hashd's deputy chief, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.

The COVID-19 virus, which was first detected in China's Wuhan in December, has killed more than 21,168 people worldwide, while over 467,351 infections have been confirmed.

As of yet, there are no known treatments for the virus, though more than 113,808 have already recovered from the infection.

On Sunday, Iraq imposed a total nationwide lockdown until March 28 to fight the novel coronavirus, as the number of cases grew and the death toll climbed to 29.

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