Pentagon has corroborated reports of United States troops sharing a military base with Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. But the official immediately clarified the number of the Shiite militia groups is only but a few.
Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren admitted Iran-backed Shiite militia fighters are indeed within the Taqaddum air base in Anbar, but these people are in the “low double digits.” He stressed the safety of the American troops are stable because the tribal militia do not have interaction with them. Those members of the Shia militias are there “working, serving in sort of a liaison capacity,” Warren added.
Warren issued the clarification after reports flaunted that the U.S. troops are sharing the base with the Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups. Two unidentified administration officials cited in a Bloomberg View report raised concerns such an arrangement “puts the U.S. troops at risk.” An additional 450 U.S. military personnel will be sent there to help train the local forces against the militant Islamic State fighters.
US Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), who served in the Army and fought in Iraq, cautioned the government’s seemingly casual stand on the presence of those “few” Shiite militia groups. He said during his active service, it was Iran which supplied the “most advanced, most lethal roadside bombs used against coalition forces.”
He said he finds it troubling that the U.S. president will actually allow for such a set-up when “Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism and has been attacking the United States for decades.”
The Bloomberg View report did say that “some of the Iran-backed Shiite militias at the base have killed American soldiers in the past.”
Warren said part of the conditions before the arrival of the 450 U.S. military personnel was that the Shiite militias, as well as any Iranian military units, must vacate the Taqaddum Air Base.
“The [Shia militia] representatives who are on Taqaddum and the American forces who are on Taqaddum are separated by space. The government of Iraq is helping to coordinate the separation of these two groups,” Warren said.