Germany to cut troop numbers in Iraq after Soleimani killing

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Tue, 07 Jan 2020 - 10:05 GMT

German troops who are part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), attend a memorial ceremony for slain soldiers, in the German Army's Camp Marmal in Mazar-e-Sharif, May 8, 2013. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

German troops who are part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), attend a memorial ceremony for slain soldiers, in the German Army's Camp Marmal in Mazar-e-Sharif, May 8, 2013. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany is moving some of its military personnel from Iraq to neighboring countries over security concerns, the government said, days after the killing of a top Iranian military commander in a U.S. drone strike.

Slovakia meanwhile said it had temporarily relocated its seven soldiers from Iraq, who are part of a NATO training mission, as tensions in the region rise.

About 30 of the 120 German soldiers in Iraq who mainly train Iraqi security forces will be redeployed to Jordan and Kuwait, the German government told parliament in a letter on Monday.

Iraq’s parliament called on Sunday for the United States and other foreign troops to leave after Iran’s most prominent general, Qassem Soleimani, was killed on Friday in a U.S. drone strike on his convoy at a Baghdad airport.

The drawdown of German troops was ordered by the U.S.-led joint command for fighting Islamic State, the German government said. This would apply mainly to troops in Baghdad and Taji, a city just north of the Iraqi capital where close to 30 German troops are deployed.

Out of the 120 German soldiers, about 90 are stationed in the Kurdish area in the north of the country.

The German government said the forces could be moved back to Iraq if their training mission resumes.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told public broadcaster ZDF he was concerned about a possible resurgence of Islamic State should foreign troops leave Iraq quickly. “Nobody really wants that,” he said.

Slovakia said it had removed its seven soldiers from Iraq temporarily.

“In view of the current situation in Iraq, which has led to the suspension of activities of the NATO training mission, the temporary relocation of seven Slovak soldiers outside the country was carried out in accordance with security rules,” Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini said in a statement.

“Further steps will be taken after consultation with allies.”

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