NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg talks to journalists during a news conference following a meeting of NATO defence ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, Pool) NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg talks to journalists during a news conference following a meeting of NATO defence ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, Pool)

Canadian-led NATO mission in Iraq in limbo

Alliance stands pat on suspension of mission that includes 250 Canadian soldiers

A Canadian-led training mission in Iraq is in limbo after the head of the NATO military alliance indicated Monday there are no plans to shut it down permanently.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg instead defended the training mission, which includes 250 Canadian soldiers and is being commanded by a Canadian general, as essential for defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

“We have suspended our training mission now because of the security situation on the ground, but we are ready to restart the training when the situation makes that possible,” Stoltenberg said following a meeting with NATO ambassadors in Brussels.

The training mission was suspended over the weekend due to security concerns following the killing of Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani by a U.S. drone near the Baghdad airport on Friday night.

Soleimani was the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and was widely considered the second-most powerful leader in Iran after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He also had significant influence in Iraq and the surrounding Middle East.

In response to Soleimani’s killing, Iraq’s caretaker prime minister and parliament both called for all U.S. and foreign troops to leave the country while there are fears that Iran or its proxies in the region will launch retaliatory attacks against western forces.

Stoltenberg sidestepped questions about Iraqi demands for the departure of all foreign troops from the country, noting the alliance was there by invitation from the Iraqi authorities, adding: “We will continue to work closely to have close dialogue with the Iraqi government.”

The Canadian government did not offer any clarity on the state of the military mission in a statement about Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne having spoken Monday to his Iraqi counterpart, Mohammed Ali al-Hakim.

Champagne reiterated Canada’s support to the fight against ISIL, the statement read, even as both foreign ministers agreed that de-escalation was necessary to ensure Iraq’s long-term security and stability.

“Minister Champagne pledged to continue to work with the government of Iraq to achieve the peace, stability and prosperity that the people of Iraq want and deserve,” the statement added. “Both ministers have agreed to keep in close touch in the coming days and weeks.”

RELATED: At least 60 people of Iranian background detained for hours at B.C. border crossing, group says

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan similarly offered few details about a conversation he had with Stoltenberg about the NATO training mission.

Canada has commanded the NATO training mission since it was created in 2018, with Maj.-Gen. Jennie Carignan having recently taken the helm. The mission was established to train the Iraqi military in the basics of soldiering so they can defend against any ISIL resurgence.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 greatly impacts future of seasonal workers

Faced with job loss and lack of financial support, many overseas workers were forced to return home

Fernie Rotary supports Days for Girls

The Rotary club donated $250 towards the Fernie chapter of the international organization

The importance of staying active during self isolation

Maintaining an exercise regime is critical to mental health during stressful times

Elk Valley holds on to hope while pandemic ensues

Weeks into the COVID-19 crisis, communities in the Elk Valley continue to find ways to spread joy

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

UPDATE: UK PM Boris Johnson moved to intensive care after COVID-19 symptoms worse

He has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26

Travellers, travel agents ‘in agony’ over refund policies and customer service

Many Canadian carriers are offering customers flights rebookings or travel vouchers — but not refunds

Introverted and extroverted kids likely to react differently to COVID-19 restrictions

B.C. child psychologist says your parenting approach can’t be one-size fits all in social isolation

B.C. begins taking submissions for $2M COVID-19 research fund

Rural health, impact of shifting hospital resources among priorities

Wearing non-medical masks can stop spread of COVID-19 before symptoms start: Tam

Health officials had previously not recommended wearing them

Most Read