The US Air Force (USAF) is likely to continue its mission in Iraq even after the US withdrawal, 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force commander and air component coordination element in Iraq director Major General Russell J Handy has said.

“As we continue to draw down the land component, we will continue to fly cover overhead.

“We have to continue doing the same things we’ve been doing support wise that we have been doing through the entire transition,” Handy added.

The USAF sorties including the full range of missions, from close-air support to strategic airlift, will increase in the next few months to cover the drawdown, while intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance will remain an integral element of the mission.

The USAF 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force, which is responsible for coordinating and enabling air operations in Iraq, will leave by the end of the year.