U.S. Withdrawal from Iraq Continues: Air Base at Balad Turned Over to Iraqis

The number of American service members in Iraq is plummeting ahead of a fast-approaching Dec. 31st deadline for all American troops to be out of the country.

There are now 20,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and only seven U.S. bases remain to be turned to Iraqi control by year’s end.  Just last week there were 24,000 American troops in Iraq.  That’s a significant reduction from the 46,000 American troops that were in Iraq two months ago.

The most significant base to recently be turned over to Iraqi control was the giant U.S. air base at Balad  in northern Iraq. It had long served as a major air hub for US forces in Iraq.

Brigadier General Bradley Becker, the deputy commanding general for United States Division Center  briefed reporters today on a conference call from Iraq to provide an update on the pace of the withdrawal.

Like other senior officers who’ve spoken about the withdrawal, Becker says the U.S. plans to have most of its troops home by Christmas.   And it’s not just troops leaving Iraq, but all the equipment needed to support them too.  Becker says there are still 1,740 truckloads of equipment ready to leave Iraq by year’s end.

According to Becker  the huge U.S. complex in Baghdad known Camp Victory will not be the last U.S. base to close, though it remains the largest of the few that remain to be turne over to Iraqi control.  He says the only U.S. activity that will remain at Camp Victory will be a State Department logistics hub located on the base.

Becker said the last U.S. base to be transferred to the State Department will be the consulate in Basra, where there are currently some military personnel that will leave once the facility is fully transitioned to the State Department.

Earlier today the top U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. Lloyd Austin predicted there would be “turbulence” or an increase in violence after the U.S. leaves Iraq.  Becker agreed that after American troops leave, Iraqi extremist groups will likely ”test the waters”.   However, he said Iraqi troops are up to the task of disrupting the activities of these extremist groups noting the success they’ve had since June, 2009 in providing security for Iraq’s cities.  ”The Iraqi security forces have shown that they’re capable for that type of a threat,” said Becker.


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