US-led coalition will continue to train Iraqi forces, amid Iran tensions

A spokesperson for the US-led Coalition told Kurdistan 24 that the training mission throughout Iraq will continue, despite increased tensions between the US and Iran.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A spokesperson for the US-led Coalition told Kurdistan 24 that the training mission throughout Iraq will continue, despite increased tensions between the US and Iran.

The coalition “is continuing to train Iraqi Security Forces throughout Iraq,” Col. James Scott Rawlinson, Director of Public Affairs and Spokesperson for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), told Kurdistan 24.

Earlier on Wednesday, the State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency US government employees from its embassy in Baghdad and consulate-general in Erbil, as well as the suspension of normal visa services.

A week ago, the White House announced it was dispatching an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the region in response to intelligence that Tehran was planning an attack against US targets or US allies.

READ MORE: As US forces arrive in Middle East, Pentagon announces more deployments

On Friday, Washington also announced the dispatch of an assault ship and a Patriot anti-missile battery.

“The Coalition operates in Iraq at the request of the Government of Iraq, out of facilities hosted by Iraqi Security Forces,” Rawlinson said.

“The ISF has ensured the protection of Coalition Forces at each facility against any threat and has ensured the safety and security of coalition force members.”

The German and Dutch Defense Ministries on Wednesday said they had temporarily paused their training missions in Iraq, which also includes troops that train Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

However, German Defense Ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff said the training could resume within a few days, as there is no concrete threat, the German broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, reported.

“Each facility has the necessary resources and authority to monitor and respond to any force that threatens the personnel, resources and facilities under their authority,” Rawlinson added.

“Security officials can employ a range of options available to them to protect the force against threats, which they assess daily, based on the environment.”

France also said it had no plans to suspend military training activities in Iraq, according to a source close to the French Defense Ministry who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“There is no change regarding the French engagement at this time,” the source said.

There are currently 300 French military training staff deployed in Iraq.

Nicholas Heras, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Kurdistan 24 that each coalition country has a different level of risk that they are willing to accept.

“The fact that there was a pause in training indicates that there is a general acceptance that some type of imminent threat, perhaps from Iraqi participants in the training program, was being prepared,” Heras said.

“The risk of this type of so-called ‘green on blue attack,’ would warrant this move by some Coalition countries.”

The US-led coalition has trained nearly 200,000 Iraqi Security Forces and spent approximately $3.5 billion in materiel and supplies to support the international effort to defeat the so-called Islamic State since the beginning of the campaign against the terrorist organization.

Editing by Laurie Mylroie