Foreign troop deployments in Iraq

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 08 2020 06:32 AM

A US Army soldier from 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Task Force-Iraq, mans an observation post at Forward Operating Base Union III in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec. 31, 2019. Maj. Charlie Dietz, US Army/Task Force-Iraq Public Affairs/Handout/Reuters

BAGHDAD—Some foreign troops deployed in Iraq are being moved amid heightened concerns over possible Iranian retaliation for the killing of a powerful Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, on the orders of US President Donald Trump.

Here are the countries that have made announcements about temporary withdrawals or remaining in Iraq:

UNITED STATES

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Washington is not pulling its troops out of Iraq. There are 5,200 US soldiers stationed there, the largest contingent as part of the international coalition fighting the Islamic State jihadist group.

Earlier, Iraqi premier Adel Abdel Mahdi said he had received signed copies of a US letter describing steps to "move out" of the country.

"There is no signed letter, to the best of my knowledge," Esper said.

"At some point we want to get out, but this isn't the right point," President Donald Trump said. "It's the worst thing that could happen to Iraq."

CANADA

Canadian General Jonathan Vance, chief of defense staff, said around 500 Canadian troops will be temporarily moved to neighboring Kuwait to ensure their safety amid rising tensions.

"The situation in Iraq is complex and it is best to pause our work there in order to fully concentrate our attention and efforts toward the safety and security of our personnel while the situation develops," Vance said.

GERMANY

Germany has temporarily withdrawn some of its 120 troops from Iraq. A total of 32 German soldiers based in Camp Taji near Baghdad were flown to the al-Azraq air force base in Jordan, the German military said in a statement. Three others went to Kuwait.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said German troops are in the country at the Iraqi government's invitation. 

"If that is no longer the case... then the legal basis for us to be there is missing. We have to clarify this with those responsible in Baghdad," he said. 

FRANCE

A French government source told AFP there are no plans to pull troops out of Iraq. France has contributed around 200 soldiers to the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State jihadist group (IS), of whom 160 are tasked with training Iraqi military personnel, according to the defense ministry 

"The priority today is the same as it was yesterday and should be tomorrow: the fight against Daesh and its resurgence on the ground in the Middle East, and its propaganda on the internet," Defense Minister Florence Parly tweeted, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

ITALY

Italy's defense ministry said it will maintain its estimated 1,000 troops following talks between Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini and Esper.

Italian media quoted military sources as saying that "a few dozen" Italian soldiers had been moved from an operations center near the US embassy in Baghdad after repeated mortar attacks.

US and allied foreign troops in Iraq are concerned they might be targeted by Iran or allied Iraqi militias in retaliation for Soleimani's killing.

"With around 1,000 men in Iraq, over 1,000 in Lebanon in the UNIFIL (peacekeeping) mission, and just under 1,000 in Afghanistan, Italy is among the countries most committed to the stability of the region," Guerini said.

NATO

After suspending its training mission in Iraq following the killing of Soleimani, NATO is also temporarily repositioning some personnel outside Iraq.

A NATO official said other mission personnel were being moved to other parts of Iraq, and emphasised that "NATO maintains a presence."

ROMANIA

Romania's defense ministry said it has 14 soldiers participating in the NATO mission in Iraq and they will be "temporarily relocated to another coalition base."

Romania's President Klaus Iohannis called on the European Union to have "a stronger voice" in reacting to the crisis unleashed by the killing of the Iranian general.

HUNGARY

Hungary's defense minister Tibor Benko said Hungarian soldiers in Iraq were ready for evacuation "if necessary," but that they would remain unless asked to withdraw, the official MTI agency reported.

Around 200 Hungarian soldiers are stationed in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, both as part of NATO's training mission and the broader coalition against the Islamic State group.