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McCain: Trump travel block could halt Tucson F-16 training by Iraqi Air Force

A group of F-16 fighter pilots training with the Air National Guard in Arizona could be affected by the travel ban put in place by President Donald Trump, with U.S. Sen. John McCain raising concerns the move could block Iraqi Air Force pilots from traveling to Tucson.

Pilots from the Iraqi Air Force have been training out of Tucson International Airport since 2012, as part of the overseas training mission of the 162nd Fighter Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard.

McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham released a joint statement, saying Trump's action to block travel from residents of seven Middle Eastern nations, including Iraq, could "become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism."

"At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies," the Republican senators said.

The AANG wing's training program at TIA includes personnel from Singapore, Poland, Oman, and NATO nations, including Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium.

There are about eight Iraqi F-16s deployed in that country, out of about 36 the United States agreed to sell to Iraq. About six of the Iraqi jets are stationed in Tucson.

Last year, the Iraqi presence in Tucson was extended through at least February 2017, with Lockheed Martin awarded a training contract worth up to $32 million.

One of the Iraqi pilots training in Tucson was killed in a 2015 crash near Douglas.

Brig. Gen. Rafid Mohammed Hassan, who had been flying a night training mission with the Arizona Air National Guard, crashed an F-16 southeast of Tucson that June.

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An Iraqi F-16 taxis at TIA.