Denmark to pull special forces out of Iraq

Denmark to pull special forces out of Iraq
2 min read
17 May, 2018
NATO-member Denmark said it will withdraw its special forces from Iraq, who have been taking part in the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group.
Danish soldiers have taken part in training local forces in the fight against IS [Getty]

Denmark said on Thursday it will start withdrawing its special forces from Iraq, as it winds up its role in a US-led international coalition fight back against the Islamic State group.

"We have now reached a point where we can begin withdrawing our special forces because (IS) no longer has control over large areas in Iraq," Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said in a statement. 

Up to 60 Danish special forces were sent to Iraq in 2016 to train and advise Iraqi soldiers after a vote by Denmark's parliament.  

The forces also took part in operations on the Iraqi-Syrian border, providing intelligence and ad-hoc air support. 

"Their Iraqi partners are now ready to stand on their own two feet," Danish Defence Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said in the statement. 

"(IS) have been forced away from virtually all the areas which the terrorist organisation occupied in Iraq," he added.

The Scandinavian nation currently has around 180 troops stationed at al-Asad air base near Baghdad, where they have been training Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish security forces. 

IS swept across large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, declaring a cross-border "caliphate" in areas they controlled.

Abadi announced a "final victory" over the hard-line group in December. Analysts say the militant group still poses a threat from pockets along the border with Syria and has continued to carry out ambushes, assassinations and bombings across Iraq.

On Wednesday, at least eight people were killed and dozens more wounded after a suicide attacker bombed a funeral tent in the area of Tarmiyah, northern Baghdad.

A source from the Hashd al-Shaabi - the largely Shia militia force that played a key role in the fightback against the Islamic State group - said members of the force were present when the suicide bomber struck. 

Wednesday's attack was the first terror incident since the announcement that influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was on course for victory.

In the run up to the elections, the militant group threatened to target rallies and polling stations in a bid to deter Iraqis from voting.