BERLIN (AP) – Germany moved 35 soldiers serving in Iraq to neighboring Jordan and Kuwait on Tuesday amid tensions over the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general in an airstrike in Baghdad last week.
The killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Soleimani has drastically raised regional tensions and escalated a crisis between Washington and Tehran.
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote to lawmakers that the troops in the Iraqi bases in Baghdad and Taji would be â€œtemporarily thinned out,â€ news agency dpa reported Tuesday. The two officials stressed that talks with the Iraqi government on a continuation of the mission to train Iraqi troops would go on.
Germany has a small contingent of some 120 soldiers in Iraq, though the majority are not stationed in Taji and Baghdad but elsewhere in Iraq.
The Defense Ministry said later Tuesday that the 32 soldiers stationed at Taji were flown overnight to the Azraq air base in Jordan, where German planes helping in the fight against the Islamic State group are based. Three soldiers in Baghdad were taken along with colleagues from other countries to Kuwait by the headquarters of the anti-I.S. Operation Inherent Resolve, it added.
â€œThese forces can be moved back at any time if training in Iraq resumes,â€ the ministry said in a statement.
â€œOur soldiers are staying in the region and the mission is being kept in place for now, even though it is suspended this week pending further consultation,â€ Roderich Kiesewetter, a lawmaker with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party who is on the parliament’s foreign affairs committee, told Deutschlandfunk radio.
He said this was â€œa very good step to give the Iraqi government time to evaluate the situationâ€ after Iraq’s parliament called for the withdrawal of foreign troops. The international coalition fighting IS will have to discuss how to proceed, he added.
Germany had already ordered its soldiers in Taji and Baghdad not to leave their bases after the killing of Soleimani last week near the Baghdad airport.