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France withdrawing its forces from Iraq: Report

Iraqi newspaper says French troops left Iraqi territory and international coalition against Islamic State withdrew from Iraqi airbase
France is part of US-led coalition tasked with helping Iraqi security forces in fight against Islamic State group (AFP)

France's armed forces in Iraq are withdrawing from the country after having spent half a decade there for counterterrorism missions, the Iraqi government reportedly said.

The Iraqi newspaper Wakalah reported on Wednesday that Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf, spokesman for Iraq's General Commander of the Armed Forces, said that French troops had left Iraqi territory and the international coalition to fight the Islamic State group (IS) had exited the country's airbase at al-Qaim.

"The departure of the French forces comes according to agreements that took place with the Iraqi government," Khalaf said.

France is part of a US-led international coalition that is tasked with helping Iraqi security forces in the fight IS.

As a part of these efforts, the European nation carried out air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria and also provided military equipment and training to Iraqi forces.

Recently, the US-led coalition has been pulling its forces from some bases in Iraq.

It withdrew from the al-Qaim military base after Iraq condemned a US air strike in the country earlier this month that killed five security personnel and one civilian and wounded 12 members of security forces.

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The Iraqi Security Forces announced last week that they had "taken over the Al-Qaim military base in Al-Anbar province, in the western part of the country, after the withdrawal of the international coalition forces from them with all their military equipment".

According to Wakalah, Iraq's spokesman for the Iraqi joint operations, Tahsin Al-Khafaji, said "the withdrawal of the American forces from the Al-Qaim base, which includes a team of consultants, experts and technicians, was carried out within a timetable for the purpose of permanent withdrawal".

Last month, Middle East Eye reported that the US had offered a partial pullback of troops in Iraq after a parliamentary call in January for American troops to leave the country. 

Still, Washington ruled out departing from its biggest airbase in Iraq, Ain al-Assad.

While the US-led coalition forces had already begun to reduce their presence in Iraq after IS had been largely defeated, Washington was reluctant to fully withdraw from the country after a flare-up of tensions with Iran at the beginning of the year.

A new armed group, self-named the Revolutionary League, has also made itself known by claiming responsibility for an attack on a military base in Iraq that killed two members of the US military and one British soldier.