Iranian mourners gather for the burial of slain top general Qasem Soleimani in his hometown Kerman on January 7, 2020. (AFP)
Germany plans to move some of its small troop contingent in Iraq to neighboring Jordan and Kuwait amid tensions over the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general in an airstrike in Baghdad last week.
The killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Soleimani has drastically raised regional tensions and escalated a crisis between Washington and Tehran.
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote to lawmakers that the troops in the Iraqi bases in Baghdad and Taji would be "temporarily thinned out," news agency dpa reported Tuesday. The two officials stressed that talks with the Iraqi government on a continuation of the mission to train Iraqi troops would go on.
Germany has some 120 soldiers in Iraq, though the majority are not stationed in Taji and Baghdad but elsewhere in Iraq. The two ministers, speaking about those two locations, said that "the soldiers deployed there will promptly be moved to Jordan and Kuwait" and can be moved back if training resumes.
Roderich Kiesewetter, a lawmaker with Chancellor Angela Merkel's party who is on the parliament's foreign affairs committee, said the "temporary reduction" will mean that "about 30 (soldiers) will be pulled out of Taji and a few out of Baghdad," for a total of between 30 and 40.
"Our soldiers are staying in the region and the mission is being kept in place for now, even though it is suspended this week pending further consultation," Kiesewetter told Deutschlandfunk radio.
He said this was "a very good step to give the Iraqi government time to evaluate the situation" after Iraq's parliament called for the withdrawal of foreign troops. The international coalition fighting the Islamic State group will have to discuss how to proceed, he added.
Germany had already ordered its soldiers in Taji and Baghdad not to leave their bases after the killing of Soleimani last week near the Baghdad airport.