Iraqi military strengthens ahead of U.S. troops withdraw

American troops are gearing up for their withdrawal from Iraq at the end of the year and are beginning to hand over military bases back to Iraqi forces who have been trained to defend their country.

Since U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement on October 21, an estimated 4,000 soldiers are withdrawn from Iraq every week. The last batch of troops will be withdrawn by the end of December.

At least 500 military bases have been returned to Iraq, many of which have been rebuilt and serviced.

The Besmaya military base was returned to Iraqi forces on July 31 who moved in to it with over 320 soldiers, 69 armored cars, tanks and emergency resources.

Every three months, training courses which last up to two months are given to Iraqi artillery troops at the military base.

"They are going forward, are they capable of training themselves. Yes, that's the goal of every country to train its own army. We've been assisting them because they are also using some American equipment they purchased, teaching them how to use the equipment. The Iraqi army is capable of defending itself. And that is the sole key for any country for sovereignty to defend its borders," said an American soldier.

At the end of every training course a large-scale military exercise is conducted at the base.

Brigadier General Saad Mezher, in charge of the artillery troops' training, says there are over 90 types of artillery, several rocket guns and 240 mortars that are used in the training program.

"Today we celebrate our national holiday as American troops withdraw from Iraq. Today we are proud to say that we can shoulder the responsibility of defending Iraq, which is our commitment to the Iraqi people," said Abood Kanber, assistant to the chief commander.

He added that Iraq is prepared to defend its territory and air space, despite its neighboring countries being allies.

This year, Iraqi forces plan to assist the Ministry of Interior Affairs in maintaining law and order in the country.

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