NATO says it is temporarily moving some of its personnel out of Iraq due to tensions between the US and Iran in the region. The decision follows a similar move by Germany to withdraw some troops from the capital.
NATO announced on Tuesday that it was pulling some of its troops and personnel out of Iraq and repositioning others within the country.
A spokesman for the trans-Atlantic military alliance said that "the safety of our personnel is paramount" and that some troops would be moved "both inside and outside of Iraq."
"NATO maintains a presence in Iraq. And we are prepared to continue our training and capacity-building when the situation permits," the spokesman told German news agency dpa.
Tensions in the region skyrocketed following the death of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US airstrike on Friday in Baghdad.
NATO already suspended its training operation of Iraqi troops in the aftermath of the strike. The defense alliance has been carrying out a non-combat mission in Iraq to train local forces.
The NATO training mission is separate from the US-led coalition in Iraq, which has around 5,200 soldiers stationed in Iraqi bases.
Around 500 trainers, advisers and support staff have been taking part in the mission, which includes military and civilian personnel from the alliance's 29 member states as well as non-NATO partner countries.
German military reduces troops
The move follows shortly on the heels of Germany reducing the number of Bundeswehr troops stationed in Iraq due to rising security concerns in the region. The German government said that 30 out of the 130 personnel serving in the country are being redeployed to neighboring countries.
Romania also said that 14 of its soldiers taking part in the NATO mission would also be "relocated."
On Sunday, Iraq's parliament voted to expel foreign troops taking part in the US-led anti-IS coalition in response to the deadly drone attack that killed Soleimani, who headed Iran's elite foreign paramilitary and espionage operation, the Quds Force. A top Iraqi militia commander was also killed in the strike.
The US said on Monday it has not yet made a decision to pull troops out of Iraq, although a draft letter sent to the Iraqi government appeared to indicate that plans for a withdrawal were underway.
Iranian leaders have vowed to avenge Soleimani's death, raising concerns about possible military assaults or cyberattacks.
Should Iran retaliate, US President Donald Trump has threatened to attack Iranian cultural sites — although such a strike would amount to a war crime.
rs/msh (dpa, Reuters, AFP)