The alliance, which has been training Iraqi soldiers battling the Islamic State, said that it would begin removing some troops after the United States killed the Iranian general Qassim Suleimani.
NATO is removing some of the trainers who have been working with Iraqi soldiers battling the Islamic State, in the aftermath of the American killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani of Iran in Baghdad.
The NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, announced on Monday that the training had been temporarily suspended.
For the security of NATO personnel, the organization said in a statement that it would be taking precautions — including “the temporary repositioning of some personnel to different locations both inside and outside Iraq.”
NATO, which has been running the training operation since 2018, will continue to maintain a presence in Iraq and remains committed to fighting international terrorism, an official said, while refusing to divulge details about troop movements.
NATO, which has roughly 500 soldiers in Iraq, lifted some of them out of Baghdad’s Green Zone in helicopters Monday night.
General Suleimani was killed in an American drone strike at the Baghdad airport on Friday alongside a powerful Iraqi militia leader. Since then, Iran and its partners have stepped up calls for vengeance Iran attacked two American forces at two bases in Iraq early Wednesday, Iranian official news media and United States officials said.
Some NATO countries, like Canada, Germany and Croatia, have announced that they are moving troops out of Iraq altogether, at least temporarily, because of security concerns.
Canada is moving some of its 500 military personnel temporarily to Kuwait, the country’s top military official, Gen. Jonathan Vance, said in a letter posted on Twitter on Tuesday.
Thirty of the 120 German soldiers in Iraq will be sent to Jordan and Kuwait, while others will remain positioned in the less volatile Kurdish region of northern Iraq, the German Defense and Foreign Ministries said in a joint letter to the German parliament, the Bundestag.
“When the training is able to resume, the military personnel can be reinstated,” the letter said.
Croatia has moved seven of its contingent of 14 soldiers to Kuwait and sent the rest home, its Defense Ministry said. Slovakia has removed its seven soldiers.
The Pentagon, for its part, has directed about 4,500 additional American troops to the region atop the roughly 50,000 already there. The new troops will act primarily as a defensive force, meant to reinforce American bases and compounds in the region and respond to a possible Iranian attack in retaliation for the killing of General Suleimani.
A brigade of roughly 4,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division based out of Fort Bragg, N.C., has started deploying to Kuwait. The troops are part of the division’s global response force, kept on standby for particular emergencies.
In Iraq and Syria, however, the American-led coalition halted its yearslong campaign against the Islamic State on Sunday, as United States forces braced for retaliation from Iran.
About 5,200 troops in Iraq and several hundred in Syria are now focused on fortifying their outposts instead of pursuing remnants of the Islamic State and training local forces.
Further complicating matters, Iraqi lawmakers voted Sunday to expel American forces from their country. The vote will not be final until it is signed by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, and it was unclear whether Iraq’s current caretaker government had the authority to end the relationship with the United States military.
Although the vote in Parliament was 170-0, lawmakers were more divided on the issue of ousting American troops than that tally may suggest. Many of the 328 members of Parliament, primarily those representing the country’s ethnic Kurdish and Sunni Muslim minorities, did not attend the session and did not vote.