Al-Taqaddum US forces leave base Iraq
© Sgt. Robert G. Gavaldon/ Marine Corps
U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command prepare their gear for departure in support of the transfer of Al-Taqaddum, Iraq, Mar. 24, 2020.
The U.S. handed over the al-Taqaddum Air Base to Iraqi forces on Saturday — it's the fourth base to be handed over to Iraqi Security Forces over the last several weeks.

The al-Taqaddum Air Base is located between Ramadi and Fallujah. The coalition says the base transfers are a result of success against ISIS.

"These pre-planned base transfers are not related to recent attacks against Iraqi bases hosting Coalition troops, or the ongoing COVID-19 situation in Iraq," Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a news release.

The coalition has been consolidating troops across a number of smaller outposts to bigger bases. Some coalition troops have left Iraq as a result of COVID-19.

The coalition has also been criticized for its inability to protect bases from rocket attacks believed to be orchestrated by Iran-backed militias.

An attack on Camp Taji in March resulted in the deaths of two U.S. troops and one U.K. service member.

"The transfer of Taqaddum (Habbaniya) air base is another step forward in the ongoing partnership between Iraqi Security Forces and the anti-ISIS international military Coalition," Brig. Gen. Vincent Barker, OIR director of sustainment, said in a news release.

"Over the last month we have transferred four bases to full ISF control. This wouldn't be possible without the ISF's proven capability to bring the fight to ISIS," Barker said in the release.

The U.S. previously handed over al-Qaim, the Qayyarah West Airfield and the Kirkuk installation.

Kirkuk was the scene of a deadly rocket attack in Dec. 2019 that killed an American contractor. The rocket attack carried out by an Iran-backed militia nearly sparked a war between Tehran and the U.S.

The al-Taqqadum Air Base has hosted U.S. Marines, Italian, Canadian and Spanish forces, OIR said.

Coalition advisers used the base to help Iraqi forces wrestle control of Ramadi and Fallujah from ISIS in 2016.

"The Coalition will operate from fewer locations, but remains committed to supporting our partners in their fight against Daesh," OIR said in the release.

Coalition troops will depart al-Taqqadum in the coming days as equipment is transferred to Iraqi forces, OIR said.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.
Follow him on Twitter: SnowSox184