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France has 'no intention' of withdrawing troops from Iraq, despite Iran threats

Iraq is in turmoil [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 January, 2020

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France said it has no intention of withdrawing its troops from Iraq as tensions escalate amid the killing of Qasem Soleimani.
France has "no intention" of withdrawing its troops from Iraq, a French government source confirmed to AFP on Tuesday, as tensions soar over the US killing of a top Iranian general in Baghdad.

France has contributed around 200 soldiers to the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group (IS), of whom 160 are tasked with training Iraqi military personnel, according to the defence ministry.

"Since Friday we have reinforced security for our French soldiers deployed in Iraq," Defence Minister Florence Parly tweeted Tuesday.

"The priority today is the same as it was yesterday and should be tomorrow: the fight against Daesh and its resurgence on the ground in the Middle East, and its propaganda on the internet," Parly added, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

The government source confirmed that there were no plans for a French pullout.

But the coalition's future in Iraq is uncertain after US President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, leader of Iran's foreign military operations, in Baghdad last Friday.

Read more: Iraq parliament demands foreign troops expulsion after Soleimani killing

Adding to the confusion were reports that an American general had mistakenly informed the Iraqi government that his troops were preparing to leave, requiring a hasty clarification from the Pentagon.

Overall, France has around a thousand soldiers based in the Middle East region as part of Operation Chammal, the French component of the anti-IS coalition.

Germany, on Tuesday, said it had temporarily withdrawn some of its troops deployed as part of the anti-IS coalition in Iraq. NATO also said it is taking "some personnel" out of the country because of increased risks to their safety.

An official from the defence union said other mission personnel were being moved to other parts of Iraq, and emphasised that "NATO maintains a presence".

The alliance plans to resume its training there "when the situation permits".

He declined to give details on how many personnel were being moved or to where.

"The temporary repositioning of some personnel" was "to different locations both inside and outside of Iraq.

"To protect the safety of our personnel on the ground, we cannot go into operational details," he said.

Romania's defence ministry said separately that its 14 soldiers taking part in the NATO deployment "will be temporarily relocated to another coalition base".

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