Canadian troops in Iraq are confirmed safe after two military bases were targeted by missile attacks yesterday evening.
U.S. officials report approximately ten ballistic missiles targeted Al-Asad airbase near Baghdad and the northern city of Irbil, in the part of Iraq controlled by the country’s Kurdish minority.
Canadians have long been in Irbil, working with Iraqi troops and maintaining a helicopter. Besides, Canada has a diplomatic presence there.
Hours before the Iranian missiles hit, the Canadian Forces had started to relocate troops out of the country.
U.S. President Donald Trump also took to social media to comment on the attack. The U.S. Defense Department announced there were few if any, casualties among its forces. Later, U.S. President Donald Trump commented on Twitter.
“So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well-equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.”
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and other Canadian government leaders said they were keeping an eye on the situation.
In fact, the Canadian military officials decided to remove their troops after other Western nations became concern about the rapidly growing conflict between the United States and Iran.
The withdrawal of Canadian soldiers to Kuwait was drafted by Vance. He says it is a temporary measure that aims to ensure their safety and security. However, he hasn’t clarified yet when they will return.
Vance addressed an open letter to the families of the 500 Canadian soldiers in Iraq. He also added the safety of the troops was the number one priority and that security efforts were being “considered, reassessed and modified as required on a daily basis.”
Canadian Troops in Iraq
The Canadian troops in Iraq includes about 200 soldiers attached to a NATO mission in the south of the country. As part of their mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, they are training Iraqi counterparts in the basics of soldiering.
There have been up to 200 special-forces soldiers in the northern part of the country working with specialized Iraqi anti-terror troops. In addition, several dozen more Canadians are working with senior Iraqi officials or providing logistical, medical and other support to the rest of the contingent.
All of the Canadians were ordered to suspend their activities over the weekend. This was a response following the killing by a U.S. drone at the Baghdad airport of Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani – second-most powerful person in Iran.
Soleimani’s death has raised fears of Iranian reprisals against U.S. and allied forces in Iraq and the surrounding region. It has also urged Iraq’s parliament and outgoing prime minister to call for the forced withdrawal of all western troops from the country.
A similar decision has been made by other NATO allies, including Germany, Croatia, and Romania. There were also reports of U.S. forces being put on high alert over fears of Iranian drone attacks.
“In everything that we do, the safety of our personnel is paramount,” a NATO official said on Tuesday. “We are taking all precautions necessary to protect our people. This includes the temporary repositioning of some personnel to different locations both inside and outside of Iraq.”
Although the Canadian Armed Forces was preparing to start moving people out of Iraq on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was talking to other world leaders about the situation in the Middle East, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and King Abdullah II of Jordan.
“We don’t want to be there forever”
Donald Trump and senior members of his administration continued to defend Soleimani’s killing, with the U.S. president calling the Iranian general a “monster”; despite even as they insisted there was no immediate plan to withdraw American forces from Iraq.
A leaked letter from the U.S. general commanding the anti-ISIL coalition to Iraq’s defense ministry on Monday suggested the coalition, to which Canada belongs, was preparing to pack up and withdraw from the country.
There were reports on Tuesday that outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi considered the letter an official declaration of the U.S. military’s planned departure, but U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper again dismissed the letter as a draft and said no decision had been taken.
During a news conference at the White House with his Greek counterpart, Trump said he did not know the specifics of the letter before asserting that a U.S. withdrawal would be “the worst thing that could happen to Iraq.”
“If we leave, that would mean that Iran would have a much bigger foothold, and the people of Iraq do not want to see Iran run the country.”
Yet Trump, who had threatened sanctions against Iraq on Monday following calls from its parliament and Abdul-Mahdi for all foreign troops to leave, also said: “We don’t want to be there forever. We want to be able to get out. I didn’t want to be there in the first place, to be honest.”
The Iranian government, meanwhile, was continuing to warn of punitive attacks against U.S. forces even as a funeral was held for Soleimani.