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NATO commander in Iraq says mission not affected by US, Iran tensions

BRUSSELS — The head of the NATO mission in Iraq insists that the recent increase in tension between the US and Iran has not hampered the alliance’s work in the country.

Washington ordered the evacuation of non-emergency staff from its Baghdad embassy last month due to an alleged growing threat from Iranian-linked Iraqi militias, while Germany and the Netherlands suspended their training missions.

But Canadian General Dany Fortin, who leads NATO’s 500-strong training and advisory mission in Iraq, says his forces had “sufficiently mitigated” the threat and were able to continue working.

“There’s no doubt there’s still risk and as reported in the media in the last few weeks there was a critical threat, cause for concern for the US and for all of us,” Fortin tells reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

“We have force protection measures in place to ensure that we’re vigilant, unpredictable, we change things, but we can continue our activities. So it hasn’t affected our advising, our training activities whatsoever.”

The NATO mission aims to train local Iraqi forces and improve military education centers to try to avoid a repeat of 2014, when the Islamic State jihadist group seized large areas of Iraq and Syria.

— AFP

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