End of ‘Major Combat’: US Closes Anti-ISIS HQ In Iraq

Military moves to reduce command structures in Iraq

Image Credits: DoD.

The US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has closed down a headquarters responsible for ground operations in Baghdad, symbolically ending major combat operations in Iraq.

The Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command (CJFLCC) headquarters was deactivated in a ceremony on Monday, and its authorities were transferred to Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR).

“Casing the CJFLCC colors is a symbolic gesture, honoring the perseverance and sacrifice of our coalition partners,” said Major General Walter Piatt, the commander of the 10th Mountain Division who has headed the CJFLCC since last month.

Deactivating the headquarters is a move to reduce command structures as the coalition shifts focus from combat operations against IS to supporting the Iraqi government’s security forces, officials told Stars and Stripes.

CJFLCC had worked with Iraqi government troops and Kurdish peshmerga militia to provide training, battlefield advice and other military support in the fight against IS, as well as diplomatic and law enforcement assistance.

The closure is “acknowledging the changing composition and responsibilities of the coalition,” OIR said in a statement. In February, NATO countries agreed to fund a major training and advisory mission in Iraq aimed at bolstering Baghdad’s security forces.

As of December 2017, 98 percent of territory held by IS in Syria and Iraq has been liberated. Efforts to eliminate the last pockets held by the terrorist group are ongoing, according to coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon.

“We know that they want to come back,” Dillon told the Pentagon press corps.

There was no information on the fate of US troops in Syria, which President Donald Trump recently said he wanted to withdraw from “very soon,” to the objections of the political and military establishment in Washington. Syria has repeatedly condemned the presence of US troops on its territory as illegal, in contrast with the Russian military contingent that arrived in September 2015 at the invitation from Damascus to aid in the destruction of IS.

The US invaded Iraq in 2003, claiming that the country possessed illegal weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons were ever found. US forces dismantled the Iraqi military and security apparatus and quickly found themselves facing a widespread insurgency. US troops withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, just as war was flaring up in neighboring Syria.

Emerging from that conflict, IS rapidly seized large swathes of Iraqi territory in 2014, including the major city of Mosul in the north. The US launched Operation Inherent Resolve in October that year and deployed troops and advisers back to Iraq.