NATO Suspends Training Operations In Iraq

NATO has suspended all training operations in Iraq out of concerns over the safety of its personnel stationed in the country. "We have for the time being suspended our training on the ground, and we are taking all precautions necessary to protect our people," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels Tuesday. Iran had vowed to avenge the death of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Quds Force, who was assassinated in a U.S. drone attack in the Iraqi capital last week. In the early hours of Wednesday, Iran carried out multiple ballistic missile attacks on two air bases in Iraq that house U.S. troops. All NATO allies are part of the international coalition to defeat the Islamic State, and NATO's mission in Iraq is non-combat. The alliance is in the country at the invitation of the Iraqi government to train Iraqi forces to prevent the return of the dreaded terrorist group, Stoltenberg said. That mission did not end with the killing of Soleimani, according to the NATO chief. NATO is committed to the training mission in Iraq, Stoltenberg said at a news conference after a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, adding that the alliance is keeping the situation under close review. "NATO is prepared to continue our training and capacity building when the situation permits," the Secretary General told reporters. "We remain strongly committed to the fight against international terrorism." Stoltenberg said U.S. officials briefed the allies on the regional situation following the killing of Soleimani. "For years, all allies have expressed concern about Iran's destabilizing activities in the wider Middle East region," he said. "We agree Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon; we share concern about Iran's missile tests, and we are united in condemning Iran's support for a variety of different terrorist groups." Stoltenberg said the allies called for restraint and de-escalation. "A new conflict would be in no one's interest," he said. "So, Iran must refrain from further violence and provocations."