US coalition suspends Iraq training over coronavirus

Britain is withdrawing some of its troops from a global training mission in Iraq because of the coronavirus outbreak. (Reuters/File Photo)
Short Url
Updated 19 March 2020

US coalition suspends Iraq training over coronavirus

  • The official said Iraqi forces had stopped training because they were avoiding large gatherings to prevent infection
  • Britain also said it was withdrawing some of its troops from a global training mission in Iraq because of the coronavirus outbreak

BAGHDAD: US-led coalition fighting Islamic State has suspended training of Iraqi forces over coronavirus fears, a senior coalition military official said on Thursday.
The move coincides with a drawdown announced this week of coalition troops in Iraq, as Iranian-backed militias step up rocket attacks on bases hosting foreign forces. Two US military personnel and a British soldier were killed in an incident this month.
Coalition officials say the reduction of troops and relocation of units into fewer Iraqi bases is because Iraqi forces are mostly capable of containing the threat from remaining Daesh militants on their own.
The US-led coalition has supported the Iraqi military since 2014 in the fight against Daesh.
Since the Sunni Muslim extremist group’s defeat in Iraq in 2017, US-Iranian tension has put the coalition increasingly in the crosshairs of Shiite militia groups backed by Tehran.
The coalition suspended training in January when militia rocket attacks increased and the United States killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraq’s top paramilitary leader Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis in a drone strike in Baghdad.
Training was set to resume in full but coronavirus fears have halted it again, said the coalition military official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.
The official said Iraqi forces had stopped training because they were avoiding large gatherings to prevent infection and that was affecting what US forces were doing as part of their mission.
Coalition training “isn’t happening because of the health risks associated with it,” the official said, adding that some coalition trainers had left Iraq. He said it was not clear when training would resume.
Iraq has recorded 177 cases of the disease including 12 deaths, the health ministry says.
The US-led coalition withdrew from a base at Al-Qaim on the border with Syria this week, saying in a statement it would relocate personnel and equipment from several Iraqi bases this year, without elaborating.
“We’re going to focus ... on supporting the Iraqi security forces in their efforts against Daesh from fewer bases and with fewer people,” the official said.
The coalition currently deploys around 7,500 troops in Iraq, including 5,000 Americans.

Britain also said it was withdrawing some of its troops from a global training mission in Iraq because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The decision to redeploy was made because there had been a "reduced requirement for training" from the Iraqi security forces and a pause in coalition and NATO training missions.
"The Ministry of Defense has therefore decided to redeploy some of its personnel back to the United Kingdom," it said in a statement.
Britain has been working alongside coalition partners in Iraq since 2014 to train Iraqi security forces but the programme has been "paused" for 60 days as a precaution because of COVID-19.

After Soleimani was killed, Iraq’s parliament called for foreign troops to withdraw.
Military analysts fear a drawdown in coalition troop numbers could hamper efforts to fight Daesh , which is trying regroup and carrying out regular attacks across much of northern Iraq.


Kuwait public sector begins reducing number of foreign workers

Filipinos who availed general amnesty granted by the Kuwaiti government are seen here gathering at the Kuwait International Airport Terminal 4, on April 3, 2020 on their home to Manila amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic crisis. (AFP)
Updated 42 min 13 sec ago

Kuwait public sector begins reducing number of foreign workers

  • The move is part of the nation’s move toward Kuwaitization

RIYADH: Several Kuwaiti government ministries have started to lay off expatriate workers, according to a report on Tuesday by Al-Rai newspaper.

It said the ministries will dismiss 50 percent of foreign employees, in particular those who work in non-technical fields and for subcontractors.

“The process of terminating expats working in the governmental agencies will happen gradually and we will be notifying them to ensure that the work is not affected,” a source told Al-Rai.

The dismissal process is expected to take three months but it is understood that employees who were hired directly by the ministries have already been redeployed to companies that provide subcontracted services.

Arab Times reported that expatriates who work in specialist fields requiring certain levels of expertise will be laid off gradually to avoid disrupting workflow.

The move is part of the nation’s move toward Kuwaitization. The policy was introduced in 2018 in an attempt to reduce the number of foreign workers in the public sector, and provide a more balanced workforce that offers more job opportunities for citizens.

“The committee has taken concrete steps to address the issue in the demographic imbalance,” said MP Khalil Al-Saleh, head of the parliamentary Human Resources Development Committee. “We will be holding a meeting next week to prepare a report, with data and statistics, that we will present to the National Assembly.

“We have achieved what we agreed upon to solve the problem, especially since there are expats that are working in non-technical jobs in the governmental sector.”

According to data published in December 2019, about 120,000 of the 3 million expatriates in Kuwait work in the public sector.