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

ATM thefts down in Central Alberta in 2019

RCMP data also shows some aspects of property crime in the rural and municipal areas drop as well

Sylvan Lake veterinarian’s winter tips for four-legged friends

Dr. Sandy Jameson shares tips to help cats and dogs to stay safe and healthy during the winter

Sylvan Lake Wranglers soar over High River Flyers

The Sylvan Lake Wranglers came out of the Sunday night game with a 5-3 victory on home ice

Bantam West Central Tigers claw to victory over Medicine Hat

The West Central Tigers defeated the Medicine Hat Hounds 4-2 at the NexSource Centre on Jan. 18.

Sylvan Lake and Eckville slowly climbing out of the deep freeze

The Weather Network says warmer, more moderate temperatures are on the way

Nine times lucky? Alberta’s Northern Cree takes another shot at Grammy gold

The group originates from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in northern Alberta

Tax revolt? Unpaid taxes from energy companies to Alberta towns more than double

The association says they are owed a total of $173 million

New post-secondary funding model in Alberta tied to performance measures

By 2022, up to 40 per cent of post-secondary funding could be linked to performance

Alberta bulldog breeder ordered to refund B.C. buyer over puppy’s behaviour

Tribunal ruled a verbal agreement to send a new dog superseded the written contract

Meng’s lawyer argues at extradition hearing that fraud allegations are ‘facade’

Hearing underway in Vancouver over U.S. request to extradite Meng Wanzhou

Prince Harry: ‘Powerful media’ is why he’s stepping away

Prince Harry and Megan have stepped away from their royal commitments

Most Read