Paris (hooly News) – France will withdraw its troops from Iraq, where they were participating in training missions, the French General Staff announced on Wednesday, "due in particular" to the coronavirus pandemic, which has thus hampered one of its external operations.
On the border with Iran, where the virus has already killed nearly 1,700 people, Iraq imposed nationwide very stringent measures against the new coronavirus on Sunday, reporting 20 deaths and 233 confirmed cases of Covid- 19.
"In coordination with the Iraqi government, the coalition (international anti-Islamic state led by Washington, editor's note) has decided to adjust its system in Iraq and to temporarily suspend its training activities for the Iraqi security forces, taking into account in particular the health crisis ", underlines the French general staff in a press release.
Thus, "France has decided to repatriate until further orders the personnel of Operation Chammal (French component of the international operation Inherent Resolve) deployed in Iraq", that is to say nearly 200 soldiers, hired so far in training of the Iraqi army or working in the coalition headquarters in Baghdad.
From this Thursday, the date of the start of the repatriation, "there are no more Chammal troops in Iraq", commented to hooly News the spokesman for the French general staff, Colonel Frédéric Barbry, stating that this withdrawal was "a priori temporary".
The US military, which represents the vast majority of the foreign forces deployed in Iraq, announced last weekend a temporary reduction in the coalition's wing.
"To prevent the spread of Covid-19, the Iraqi army has suspended all training. Consequently, the coalition will temporarily return to their countries in the coming days some of its specialized training elements," the command said on Friday. central of the American army (Centcom), which covers in particular Iraq and Syria.
The British and the Czechs have already announced a partial or total withdrawal of their forces from Iraq.
– Continue to fight IS –
"In the future, we anticipate that the coalition will support the Iraqi forces from fewer bases, with fewer people," warned Centcom, while saying that the coalition remained "committed to the long term" in the fight against the IS, while Iraq is also at the heart of the rivalry between Washington and Tehran, which has important relays and levers in the country.
After the assassination in Baghdad of a senior Iranian military official and his Iraqi lieutenant by Washington in January, the Iraqi parliament had voted in favor of the departure of foreign troops from Iraq, including 5,200 American soldiers.
This withdrawal sounds like a blow to Paris, which has been insisting for months on the importance of not letting the Islamic State group, the sponsor of a series of attacks on French soil since the end, not reconstitute in neighboring Syria and Iraq. 2015.
"Daesh (Arabic acronym for the Islamic State organization, editor's note) remained strong in Syria, in particular in the areas allegedly controlled by the regime (…) As for Iraq, it is troubled by its internal situation and by the upheavals of international rivalries. Daesh continues to reorganize and harass government forces there, "warned French Minister of Armies Florence Parly in mid-February.
"France will remain resolutely committed to its coalition partners to ensure the lasting defeat of Daesh," promises the French general staff on Wednesday, referring to the retention of its soldiers in the headquarters of the international coalition in Kuwait and in Qatar, French maritime deployments in the Syria canal and the continuation of its air support missions from its regional bases in Jordan and Qatar.
If the coronavirus pandemic comes to hamper the operations of the French army in the Middle East, "the missions continue" in the Sahel, where 5,100 soldiers are currently deployed within the anti-jihadist operation Barkhane, assures the French general staff .
The coronavirus has started to appear in Sahelian countries.
Mali at war announced on Wednesday its first two confirmed cases of coronavirus, on two Malians who returned from France in mid-March. Niger announced its first case last Thursday. Neighboring Burkina Faso is the most affected country in West Africa with 4 dead and 75 people infected, according to a last official report published on Sunday.