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International coalition hands over Taji base to Iraqi forces

By Khalid al-Taie

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Iraqi and international coalition officials participate in a handover ceremony at Taji base on August 23rd. Taji base has served as a primary installation for coalition partners to train the Iraqi Security Forces to fight ISIS, officials said. [Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve/Twitter]

The international coalition on Sunday (August 23rd) handed over to the Iraqi army the Taji base north of Baghdad, the eighth transfer of a coalition run Iraqi base back to Iraq.

The handover, based on a prescheduled timeline, was conducted in an official ceremony attended by military leaders from both sides.

"This is truly a historic day,” said Maj. Gen. Kenneth Ekman, deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. “For the past six years, Camp Taji has served as a primary installation for coalition partners to train the Iraqi army, Iraqi air force, and the Qwat al-Khasah [Iraqi special forces]."

The coalition’s efforts have enabled Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to train themselves, he said.

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The international coalition released an infographic highlighting coalition support for Iraqi forces at Taji base and the success of training operations there. [Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve/Facebook]

"From this day forward, the ISF will take full responsibility for the facilities and programmes at Taji and continue to use the site to lead and conduct training as part of the mission to defeat Daesh remnants," he said, referring to the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).

Since March 17th, Iraq has taken over responsibility for seven other military bases from the international coalition, including Basmaya base south of Baghdad on July 25th.

Training, arming Iraqi forces

Camp Taji previously housed around 2,000 personnel from the international coalition and NATO members, most of whom left this summer.

The coalition's operations at the base were mainly focused on training and arming Iraqi forces "in order to enhance their readiness to combat terrorism and develop their capabilities in all fields", said Maj. Gen. Tahseen al-Khafaji, a spokesman for the Joint Operations Command.

Over the past few years, international forces stationed at the base have trained about 47,000 ISF personnel, he told Diyaruna.

The training programmes included physical fitness, infantry tactics, marksmanship, operations planning, combat medicine and intelligence analysis, he said.

The coalition has also rehabilitated the base's facilities, including training grounds and firing ranges, the military airfield, shelters, and ammunition sites, al-Khafaji said.

The coalition transferred $347 million in equipment and property to the Iraqi government at Taji camp, the coalition said, adding that this was the "highest dollar figure of any base transfer".

The coalition also left them with large stocks of gear, weapons and logistical equipment, and a stockpile of 90 million bullets.

The partnership with the international coalition continues, al-Khafaji said, as coalition forces "are still working with us and supporting our efforts and operations to combat terrorism".

"We consider our relationship with coalition forces as crucial to eradicating ISIS remnants," he said.

"Our foreign partners are helping us crush the enemy remnants' hideouts and observe their movements from the air," he said, adding that the coalition supports Iraqi forces' intelligence efforts.

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