On the heels of the aftermath of the killing of Iran’s Major General Qassem Soleimani’s death by way of U.S. drone strike, NATO announced on Saturday that they would be temporarily halting a training program for Iraqi forces, citing growing safety concerns in the region.
According to Reuters, acting NATO spokesman Dylan White said that regional stability was in question now that the top-ranking Iranian general was killed and felt as though continuing training under the unpredictable conditions could jeopardize the safety of several hundred Iraqi soldiers in the NATO-sponsored program, known as NATO Mission Iraq.
“The safety of our personnel in Iraq is paramount,” White said in a Saturday statement. “We continue to take all precautions necessary. NATO’s mission is continuing, but training activities are temporarily suspended.”
The NMI program was launched in 2018 out of Baghdad, Iraq, and is described as “non-combat ‘train-and-advise’ mission to help Iraqi security structures and institutions fend off future insurgencies,” as reported by Reuters. The group’s mission came about on the heels of several years of fighting against the Islamic State group and consists of members from all NATO countries and some non-NATO countries.
Suspension of the training program came after NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reportedly spoke to U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper following the American drone strike on the convoy consisting of several top Iranian military personnel.
In addition to suspension of the NMI program, the increasing threat of possible turmoil in the Middle East region triggered the suspension of another training group led by the U.S. for Iraqi soldiers known as Operation Inherent Resolve.
The OIR group was also created in response to the previous threat of the Islamic State group and was officially launched in 2014. Lieutenant General Pat White commands the unit, which is responsible for adding to the region’s capabilities of defending against emerging threats from the Islamic State group.
President Donald Trump was sharply criticized by a number of Democrats for green-lighting the operation that resulted in Soleimani’s death on Thursday. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, introduced a measure alongside Rep. Ro Khanna, to prevent funding of any future military action against Iran without congressional approval.
Sanders’ efforts came on the same day that former the 2016 vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine, proposed a privileged war powers resolution that, should it pass, prevent Trump from taking further military action against Iran without express approval from Congress, with one exception being that Trump could still act alone if the United States was under imminent threat.