Defence Minister: No plans for Finnish troops to leave Iraq

The training mission for 78 Finnish soldiers deployed to Iraq has been suspended for the time being, but the troops remain in-country.

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File picture of Finnish soldier deployed to Iraq / Credit: The Global Coalition website

Finland’s Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen (Centre) says there are no plans to withdraw Finnish forces from northern Iraq, amid heightened tensions in the region.

Kaikkonen made the comments to Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, and echoed remarks made by Brigadier General Rami Saari to STT news agency earlier on Monday.

Some 78 Finnish troops – two thirds of them reservists – are currently deployed to Iraq.

The Finnish forces are part of a NATO-lead military training programme in the Kurdish-administered region of northern Iraq.

“Any withdrawal of foreign troops would require a decision by the Iraqi government. For some time now, critical views on foreign troops have been heard in [Iraq’s] parliament” Kaikkonen tells Helsingin Sanomat.

Iraq’s Parliament has called on the government to expel all American forces from the country after President Donald Trump ordered the killing of a senior Iranian general Qasen Soleimani in a drone strike last week.

Iranian leaders have vowed revenge for the targeted assassination, which sent shockwaves throughout the Middle East.

“We are in the process of evaluating what the decision of the Iraqi Parliament means in practice. The significance and implications of the decision are still unclear” says Kaikkonen.

Training operations have been suspended for now, as authorities monitor how the situation might unfold in the coming days and weeks in Iraq.

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