The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has suspended the training of Iraqi security forces, acting spokesperson for the organisation said on Saturday.
The suspension of training activities is coming as fears of a new conflict in the region grow following the U.S. drone strike on a top Iranian commander.
“NATO’s mission is continuing, but training activities are currently suspended,” said acting NATO spokesperson Dylan White, adding that the defense alliance was taking all precautions to protect its personnel.
NATO’s current mission in Iraq began in 2018 with the aim of training Iraqi armed forces to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State terrorist group. Several hundred personnel from NATO allies as well as non-NATO countries, including Sweden and Finland, are involved.
A U.S.-led international coalition combatting Islamic State has also made the decision to suspend training of Iraqi security forces, said the German military, which is not part of the NATO Mission Iraq.
The decision is a precautionary measure to protect deployed soldiers and applies to all partner nations with training missions in Iraq under Operation Inherent Resolve, the Bundeswehr said.
Denmark, Norway and Sweden followed separately with statements, saying that their forces are suspending the training operations that are intended to boost the long-term capacity of Iraqi troops to counter Islamic State militants.
Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, was killed along with the deputy head of Iraq’s powerful Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi militia, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, in a move that sharply escalated tensions across the Middle East.
Germany has deployed 27 troops in a training capacity to Camp Taji, some 30 kilometres north of Baghdad.
The total German contingent for the international deployment against Islamic State currently numbers 415 men and women, and is currently being commanded from Jordan, where many of them are stationed.
Norway has deployed about 70 troops in the Anbar province, near the Syrian border, as part of Operation Inherent Resolve’s training missions.
Denmark’s roughly 130-strong force is stationed at the Al Asad Air Base, west of Baghdad. There are also about 10 Danish soldiers and officers in Baghdad with the NATO Mission Iraq.
Sweden has about 70 soldiers in northern Iraq.
NATO is an international alliance that consists of 29 member states from North America and Europe.
It was established at the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty on April 4, 1949.
Of the 29 member countries, two are located in North America (Canada and the U.S.), 26 are in Europe, and one is in Eurasia (Turkey).
All members have militaries, except for Iceland which does not have a typical army (but does, however, have a coast guard and a small unit of civilian specialists for NATO operations).
Three of NATO’s members are nuclear weapons states: France, the UK, and the U.S.