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Germany, other NATO allies move soldiers out of central Iraq

A German soldier examines another soldier during aeromedical training in Iraq in May 2019. Some allies have begun pulling their forces out of Iraq because of security concerns in the country. Germany will send 30 of its 120 soldiers in Iraq to Jordan and Kuwait.

ALISON CARR/U.S. ARMY

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 7, 2020

STUTTGART, Germany — Some NATO allies are pulling their militaries out of Iraq because of security concerns, a move that comes after the alliance suspended a mission to train Iraqi forces.

Germany will send 30 of its 120 soldiers in Iraq to Jordan and Kuwait while others will remain positioned in the less volatile Kurdistan region.

Germany’s defense and foreign ministries announced the moves in a letter to parliament Monday.

“When the training is able to resume, the military personnel can be reinstated,” the two ministries said in a joint letter, Deutsche Welle reported.

Other countries have taken similar steps.

Some of Canada’s 500 troops in Iraq will be temporarily moved to Kuwait, said Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defense staff, in a letter to military families. 

“Simply put, we are doing this to ensure their safety and security,” Vance wrote in the letter, which he shared on social media Tuesday.

Some of the troops are part of the NATO training mission, while others are deployed as part of Canada’s Operation Impact, which trains security forces in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries. 

A total of 800 Canadian troops are deployed to the region, Vance said. The training operations outside Iraq continue, he said, but the future of those missions and the one in Iraq “remain conditional on maintaining a sufficiently secure and productive operational environment.

Croatia has moved its 14 soldiers from Iraq, with seven bound for Kuwait and the rest headed home.

“In accordance with the decisions of the NATO alliance about removing the mission from Iraq to Kuwait, members of the Croatian army were withdrawn from Baghdad to Kuwait and are now in a safe area,” Croatia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement Monday.

Croatia said it will continue to monitor the security decisions together with allies.

NATO’s training mission in Iraq involves about 500 troops. The mission began in 2018 at Iraq’s request, but tensions with Iran after the U.S.’ killing of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani have brought those efforts to a halt.

The mission was focused on strengthening Iraqi security forces and military education institutions with an aim of helping them prevent the return of Islamic State.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday said the training mission could resume at some point.

“We are ready to restart the training when the situation on the ground makes that possible. We are in close contact with the Iraqi authorities, with the Iraqi government,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.

Other countries that have moved soldiers out of Iraq include Slovakia, which had seven troops in the country.

Slovenia, which has forces in northern Iraq, plans to stay in the country for now, The Associated Press reported.

Stars and Stripes reporters Chad Garland and Slobodan Lekic contributed to this report.

vandiver.john@stripes.com
Twitter: @john_vandiver

A German army trainer provides counter-improvised explosive device training in Iraq in 2017. Some allies have begun pulling their forces out of Iraq because of security concerns in the country. Germany will send 30 of its 120 soldiers in Iraq to Jordan and Kuwait.
TRACY MCKITHERN/U.S. ARMY