Czech soldiers are staying at their bases in Iraq despite rising tension between the United States and Iran.
Due to prospect of war caused by the killing of Iranian top general Qasem Soleimani, measures are being taken to ensure maximum security, the Czech Defense Ministry said. The Czechs’ German and Slovak allies, however, evaluated the situation differently, and their soldiers are withdrawing from the country.
“Nothing will change. Czech soldiers will remain in the place of operation. They are at their military bases, which are provided with appropriate measures to ensure maximum safety. We coordinate everything with other NATO allies,” said Jan Pejšek, the head of the Defense Ministry communication section.
For security reasons, Germany, which has about 120 soldiers in Iraq, decided to transfer part of its troops to Jordan and Kuwait.
Slovakia also chose to move seven soldiers, who worked in Iraq within the NATO training mission, outside of the country.
In recent days, the matter of further Slovak presence in Iraq raised a dispute between Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini and the Chamber of Deputies President Andrej Danko, as Danko demanded the immediate withdrawal of Slovak troops to their homeland. According to Pellegrini, however, Bratislava will decide its next steps after consultation with its allies.
The transfers are a reaction to the tense situation in the region, with Iran already responding with missile launches against U.S. bases in Iraq following the killing of Soleimani.
Earlier, Czech Minister of Culture Lubomír Zaorálek, who previously served as the foreign minister, criticized the killing of Soleimani. The current Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček described the killing of the Iranian commander as an uncommon step in a complicated situation.
On Monday, Defense Minister Lubomír Metnar has already stated that Czech soldiers will remain in Iraq.
“We have 42 people over there, including police officers, military police officers, and chemists. Currently, the training of the Iraqi Armed Forces has been discontinued, and we are debating with our allies on how to proceed,” stated Metnar.