German Defense Minister Pushes to Keep German Troops in Iraq
(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued Jan 15, 2020)
Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has said German troops are ready to stay in Iraq — should the Iraqi government wish it. The German parliament has also signaled its support for troops to stay put.

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer visited German troops in Iraq on Wednesday, as part of talks with high-ranking military officials. The visit comes as Germany is trying to ensure that Bundeswehr soldiers can remain in Iraq.

German troops are present in the country as part of a US-led coalition to fight the "Islamic State" (IS), but the Iraqi parliament voted earlier in January to oust all US troops from the country.

"We are ready to work together with our allies to further support the people of Iraq in the fight against terror and IS, if the Iraqi government still wants that," Kramp-Karrenbauer tweeted.

Around 90 German soldiers remain in Erbil in northern Iraq, where they train local Kurdish soldiers. The semi-autonomous Kurdish government has said it wants German forces to remain.

Many German soldiers were withdrawn earlier this month following the US killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. In response, Iran fired missiles at two US-led military bases in Iraq, including Erbil. No coalition soldiers were killed.

German parliament backs anti-IS mission

The German parliament, or Bundestag, signaled it backed the Bundeswehr's continued presence in Iraq on Wednesday, when a majority of representatives voted against a bill seeking to remove German forces from Iraq.

The bill was drafted by the far-right opposition party, Alternative for Germany.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, tipped as a possible successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel, visited German troops in Jordan before traveling to Iraq. She traveled onto Baghdad from Erbil to enter discussions with top military officials.

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