NATO suspends training missions in Iraq after Soleimani killing

NATO, Estonia and USA flags.
NATO, Estonia and USA flags. Source: (Siim Lõvi /ERR)

NATO has suspended its training missions in Iraq, which Estonian troops are participating in, a spokesman for the alliance said on Saturday, following the killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani by the US.

"NATO's mission is continuing, but training activities are currently suspended," the spokesman, Dylan White, said according to AFP news agency.

A US defense official told AFP earlier Saturday that US-led forces helping Iraqi troops fight jihadists have scaled back operations.

The NATO mission in Iraq, which consists of several hundred personnel, trains the country's security forces at the request of the Baghdad government to prevent the return of the Islamic State jihadist group.

Estonia is taking part in the US-led international military operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq with a six-strong training team. Additionally, one senior Estonian officer is deployed to the multinational military-strategic team in Baghdad, which serves a body of advisers to Iraqi ministries and security forces.

The mission, which has seen 500 personnel from NATO member states deployed to Iraq, is led by Canada. 

The United States has deployed separately about 5,000 soldiers to Iraq. 

The spokesman for NATO also confirmed that Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had spoken by telephone with US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper "following recent developments."

Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force foreign operations arm, was killed in a US drone attack in Baghdad on Friday.

The strike also killed the deputy head of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi, a network of mostly Shiite factions close to Iran and incorporated into the Baghdad government's security forces.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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