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What do we know about the Iraq air bases targeted by Iran?

Two US air bases were targeted by Iran.

The Ain al-Asad air base in 2017.
The Ain al-Asad air base in 2017.
Image: Khalid Mohammed/AP/Press Association Images

IRAN HAS FIRED missiles at military bases in Iraq where US troops are stationed, an attack in retaliation for the killing of revered general Qasem Soleimani. 

So far, there are no reports of casualties and the Pentagon is working to assess the damage to the bases. 

US President Donald Trump tweeted early this morning that “all is well” and that “assessment of casualties & damages taking place now”. 

The bases are significant part of the US presence in Iraq. 

The Ain al-Asad base is large and sprawling – and was one of the most important bases for US troops in Iraq after the invasion in 2003. 

Situated 60 miles west of Baghdad, the base played an important role in both the invasion of Iraq and the battle against ISIS. 

The air base was first used by American forces after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and later saw American troops stationed there amid the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

It houses about 1,500 US and coalition forces. Trump had visited the Ain al-Asad base in December 2018. Vice-president Mike Pence also visited the area. 

The base is less significant than it would have been a few years ago during the Iraq War.

With impressive facilities – that apparently included cinemas, swimming pools and fast food restaurants – troops had dubbed it ‘Camp Cupcake’. 

The BBC visited the airbase in 2014, when much of these extravagances had faded and the site was largely surrounded by ISIS. 

There, it found used artillery shells, dusty accommodation and uneaten ratio packs on the floors. 

Yet the BBC reported that despite the lack of splendour, it “remains a lynchpin in the country’s biggest province”.

upi-20181228 Donald Trump talks to US generals during a visit to the Al Asad air bases in December 2018. Source: UPI/PA Images

The US also acknowledged another missile attack targeting a base in Erbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

Erbil is the capital of the Kurdish region – a top official from the regional government said no American military base or US consulate was hit there.

The BBC reported that the base was used to train local forces – last month, US Central Command announced that the first female military instructors in the region had graduated. 

The base, according to the New York Times, was also where US commandos began their mission in Syria that targeted the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. 

With Iran and the US trading attacks, attention will now turn to the future of the bases – and whether US troops will now be staying in Iraq. 

Hours before the attack, Trump said the approximately 5,200 US troops in Iraq should stay in the country – despite calls by the Iraqi parliament for them to be expelled. 

“At some point we want to get out, but this isn’t the right point,” Trump said last night. 

With reporting from Press Association and AFP

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