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Spain withdraws a dozen NATO soldiers in Iraq over security concerns

The decision was made as precaution against the escalating tension after a US drone strike killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad

Irak
Spanish troops deployed in Iraq in 2015.

Ten Spanish soldiers deployed in Baghdad as part of an operation run by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Iraq were relocated on Tuesday to a position closer to Kuwait. NATO informed on Tuesday that it would “temporarily” reposition its personnel in Iraq to different locations in and outside of the country as a precaution against the escalating tension after a US drone strike killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.

Spain has 550 more troops at the “Gran Capitán” base in Besmayah

The Spanish Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that “only three of the 13 Spanish soldiers” that were in Baghdad remain there. In addition to the 13 soldiers in Baghdad, Spain has 550 more troops at the “Gran Capitán” base in Besmayah, southeast of the Iraqi capital.

Carmen Calvo, the caretaker deputy prime minister, confirmed that the 10 Spanish soldiers had been relocated on Wednesday after Iran launched 22 ballistic missiles at two US bases in Iraq – the Al Asad air base, in the west of the country, and one in Irbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan. “Only three remain,” Calvo said during an interview on a breakfast news show on the Spanish state broadcaster TVE, adding that the Spanish troops will try to “calm the waters as much as possible” working from a “European position.” “We are a modest, but important part,” she said.

On Saturday, NATO decided to temporarily suspend a training mission to strengthen Iraqi security forces and Iraqi military education. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance will “maintain a presence” in the country, adding that “NATO is prepared to continue our training and capacity building when the situation permits.”

According to Defense Ministry sources, there has been “no change” to the situation of the Spanish troops at the Besmayah base. These soldiers are training the Iraqi military in an international mission against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), as part of the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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