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

Curling Club comedy “Right on the button” for Vernon

Western Canada Theatre production throws humour into the mix of immigration

Missing Vernon man possibly sighted in Lower Mainland

Information leads family, friends to believe Jay Rosenberger near Lower Mainland Saturday

Museum digs up history for ’60s Vernon Winter Carnival

Get Groovin’ with the Grandkids or flashback to the ’60s with tunes, trivia and costumes

City of Enderby apologizes for cemetery damages

‘Very disrespectful’: Headstones at Enderby cemetery damaged by excavation crew

Two-month-old Kelowna boy diagnosed with rare heart disorder returns home from treatment

Arel spent two weeks at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver after suffering multiple cardiac arrests

WATCH: Cougar caught on doorbell cam in Vernon

Glenn Gorham shares footage of late-night visit from wild cat

House fire quickly knocked down in South Kelowna

According to Kelowna Fire Department, the house sustained interior damage during the blaze

Prolific South Okanagan criminal will be freed for time served

Afshin Ighani pleads guilty to assault charges but will be set free for time served

Sap thief taps Saanich park maple trees, faces hefty fine

One tree found with four taps in Mount Doug Park

Shuswap man given six months jail time for possession of child pornography

Forty-six-year-old will be on National Sex Offender Registry for 20 years

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Power outage at Big White

It’s unknown why the power went out Tuesday afternoon

Uber threatens legal action to ‘defend its right’ to operate in Surrey

‘I have no concerns,’ Mayor Doug McCallum replies

Victoria resident says WestJet employee uttered racist comment, refused to let her on plane

Customer claims she was told ‘You guys can’t handle your alcohol’ by WestJet employee

Most Read