The US has deployed Patriot air defence batteries to Iraqi bases to protect American troops recently targeted by Iranian missiles, US and Iraqi military sources said Monday (March 30th).
Washington and Baghdad had been negotiating the placement of the defence system since January, when Tehran fired ballistic missiles at the western Iraqi base of Ain al-Asad, which hosts US and other international coalition troops.
One of the Patriot batteries was deployed to Ain al-Asad last week and was being assembled, according to a US defence official and an Iraqi military source.
Another battery was deployed to a base in Erbil, the US official said.
Two further batteries destined for Iraq were still in Kuwait, the official added.
The Patriot systems are composed of high performance radars and interceptor missiles capable of destroying incoming ballistic missiles in flight.
In recent weeks, the international coalition has drawn down troop levels in Iraq, and on Monday pulled out of a military base in Mosul, the fourth location it has withdrawn from this month.
Coalition officials said the ultimate aim was to continue supporting Iraqi forces battling "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) remnants, but "from fewer bases and with fewer people".
The coalition is also temporarily withdrawing hundreds of trainers as Iraq's military has halted all training since early March to minimise the risk of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spreading among its forces.