Belgian troops to withdraw from Iraq

The Belgian Defence Department is to withdraw the remaining hundred or so Belgian elite troops that are currently based in Iraq. The Belgian forces were sent to Iraq to help in the fight against the terrorist group IS. They have been assisting the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces in their efforts to defeat the forces of the so-called Islamic State.  

The news that the Belgian troops are to be withdrawn has been confirmed by a number of military sources. A formal decision with be taken by the government in early November.  

Belgian forces have been training elite troops from the Iraqi army since March 2015. Initially the Belgians were based in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. They then moved closer to the front in Kurdish territory.  

Since 2017 small teams from the elite unit have been deployed near to the front. The Belgian offered support to Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish fighter just behind the firing line. The Belgians had small drones that they used for reconnaissance and were able to request aerial cover where necessary. The Belgians were active on the ground during the liberation of Mosul and have also help their Iraqi counterparts liberate areas closer to the Syrian border from IS control.

Their mission now appears to be over. Other countries such as Poland a and the United States are currently withdrawing forces from Iraq.

However, this doesn’t mean that peace has entirely returned to the country. The situation is still quite unstable and the possibility of new attacks can’t be ruled out. Nevertheless, almost the whole of Iraq is in the hands of the of the Iraqi authorities.  

“Battle against IS will be part of the plan”

In a reaction to VRT News’ report a spokesperson for the Defence Minister Steven Vandeput told the press agency Belga that "During November the Defence Department’s operational plan for 2019 will be put before cabinet. Our contribution to the fight against IS will be part of this plan.