NATO has suspended training of Iraqi security and armed forces to ensure the safety of several hundred mission members after a U.S. air strike in Baghdad killed a top Iranian general, an alliance spokesman said on Saturday.
"The safety of our personnel in Iraq is paramount," acting NATO spokesman Dylan White said in a statement. "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 U.S. 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 mounting concern that the killing of Iran's second-most powerful man could trigger a conflagration in the Middle East.
NATO Mission Iraq (NMI), which includes up to several hundred trainers, advisers and support staff from alliance countries and non-NATO partner countries, includes military and civilian personnel.
Established in Baghdad in October 2018 after three years of war against Islamic State, NMI is a 'train-and-advise' mission to help Iraqi security structures and institutions fend off future insurgencies. The current commander of the mission is Major General Jennie Carignan of Canada.
Separately, the German military said in a letter seen by Reuters on Friday that the United States and its allies had suspended training of Iraqi forces due to the increased threat they face after Friday's strike on Soleimani.
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- Iran's 'crushing revenge' may prove formidable challenge for Soleimani's successor
In the letter to German lawmakers, a senior German officer said U.S. Lieutenant General Pat White had decided to further increase the level of protection for forces deployed in Iraq under the Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), which he commands.
Germany has deployed around 120 troops to that mission.