NATO has suspended a training mission in Iraq following the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani by a US airstrike at Baghdad airport, an alliance spokesman said on Saturday.
NATO has been advising the Iraqi defense forces on how to keep Daesh from regaining strength. However, those “training activities are temporarily suspended,” NATO spokesman Dylan White said in an emailed statement.
“The safety of our personnel in Iraq is paramount,” acting NATO spokesman Dylan White said. “We continue to take all precautions necessary. NATO’s mission is continuing, but training activities are temporarily suspended.”
He said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had spoken by phone with US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper since Friday’s attack on Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad airport.
NATO was monitoring the situation in the region very closely, he added, amid concern that the killing of Iran’s second-most powerful man could trigger a conflagration in the Middle East.
NATO’s latest mission in Iraq dates to late 2018, with several hundred trainers working with Iraqi defense forces and military institutions offering technical advice to block the return of Daesh. The mission is run by Major General Jennie Carignan of Canada, which is home to most of the NATO forces involved.
NATO Mission Iraq (NMI), made up of several hundred trainers, advisers and support staff from both countries of the 29-member alliance and non-NATO partner countries, includes military and civilian personnel.
Soleimani was the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the mastermind of its regional security strategy. He was killed early Friday near the Baghdad international airport along with senior Iraqi militants in an airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump. The attack has caused regional tensions to soar and tested the US alliance with Iraq.