KUWAIT, Kuwait, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Japan is completing its 5-year airlift mission in Iraq and began withdrawing forces from Kuwait Monday, Japanese military officials said.
Japan's defense ministry said it was initiating the withdrawal of its 200-member Air Self-Defense Force and three C-130 transport planes stationed at the Ali Al-Salem Air Base in Kuwait, KUNA, the Kuwait news agency, reported.
The troop withdrawal will mean a complete pullout by Japanese troops from Iraq for the first time since 2004 when Tokyo deployed ground troops for reconstruction and humanitarian activities, KUNA said.
Defense officials said one of the cargo planes left Kuwait for Japan Monday and that ASDF soldiers are to start returning home Dec. 23. The Japanese withdrawal is expected to be completed by the end of March, the news agency said.