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A UK Soldier and two Americans have been killed following a rocket attack on their base in Iraq. The Ministry of Defence has confirmed than investigation is ongoing and the Prime Minister has described the attack as “deplorable.”
At least 12 people were injured in the attack on the Taji military camp, 30 miles north of Baghdad with the US Military announcing that an American soldier, an American contractor and a British soldier were killed. The names have not yet been released so as next of kin can be informed.
Taji Military Camp is approximately 30 miles north of Baghdad in Iraq. It is a joint US and Iraqi base that houses troops engaged in the coalitions “fight against ISIS”. UK troops there help other foreign forces such as Australians in training Iraqi security forces.
Their presence has become an increasingly divisive issue amongst Iraqis. This was only heightened when the United States carried out a drone attack on Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. The US did so against the wishes of the Iraqi government, and without warning a single so-called ally of theirs, including the United Kingdom.
Thus followed an spike in attacks culminating in Iran directly targeting a US base in Iraq which, despite President Trump’s assertions, did cause casualties. Since then there have been sporadic and less organised attacks toward foreign forces.
The Joint Command in Iraq initially confirmed that on March 11 at 7:35 p.m. Iraqi time, 16:35 GMT, 15 small rockets impacted the base and that an investigation was ongoing. Three hours later a Coalition spokesman released a further statement confirming the deaths of three coalition personnel. This was likely forced by reports confirming the deaths spreading in the American media. Fox News had reported the “Brits” death shortly after the attack had taken place. It just shows that in this day and age, nothing can be kept secret anymore.
The Ministry of Defence then released a statement saying;
“We can confirm we are aware of an incident involving UK service personnel at Camp Taji, Iraq. An investigation is under way, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he is liaising with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other partners, so as to understand the full details of the attack.
As of yet, no group has claimed responsibility.
There have been reports of retaliatory air strikes close to the Syrian border by coalition forces, but these have not yet been able to be confirmed. This latest attack follows a lull in hostilities that occurred following the Iranian rocket barrage on US bases in Iraq.
Following the assassination of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, coalition troops have bulked up base security following militias stating that they would attack any US installation until they withdrew from the country.
Time to Leave?
British soldiers are deployed to three different camps in Iraq – Camp Taji near Baghdad, Union III in Baghdad, and a base in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. They are there to train Iraqi troops, although this mission was paused in January following the assassination of General Solemani.
Since January, the priority has been to defend coalition bases from any attacks that may occur.
After the US drone strike, the Iraqi Parliament held a symbolic vote that asked all US forces to leave Iraq. The United States responded by saying; “We are not going anywhere.” This only helped increase tensions as it was seen as the Americans disrespecting Iraq’s sovereignty.
This latest death should put pressure on the UK government to consider it’s presence in Iraq and Syria. There are currently approximately 400 UK military personnel spread across Iraq and Syria. Most are engaged in training and support, but this latest attack shows that even in an extremely well protected base, they are not safe.
With Turkey and Russia battling it out in northern Syria, the Iraqi government and it’s people demanding foreign troops leave, is it not time the “coalition” listen to the people of Iraq instead of telling them what to do?
It is unlikely that British forces will withdraw as the current government is keen to be seen as supporting the United States in it’s goals. The invasion in 2003 has changed public opinions in UK military intervention and if the UK government was listening to the people, it would withdraw it’s troops from Iraq and Syria tomorrow.