Some of the estimated 500 Canadian troops in Iraq will be moved temporarily to neighbouring Kuwait in the coming days to ensure their safety amid rising tensions in the region, a top Canadian military official said on Tuesday.
General Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff, announced the "operational pause" in a letter posted on Twitter to families of deployed military personnel.
"Over the coming days, and as a result of Coalition and NATO planning, some of our people will be moved temporarily from Iraq to Kuwait," he said.
"Simply put, we are doing this to ensure their safety and security."
The move comes amid heightened concerns over possible Iranian retaliation for the killing of the country's top commander, Qasem Soleimani, on Friday on the orders of US President Donald Trump.
Vance did not specify how many Canadian troops would be moved out.
"The situation in Iraq is complex and it is best to pause our work there in order to fully concentrate our attention and efforts toward the safety and security of our personnel while the situation develops," Vance said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discussed the situation in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and with Jordan's King Abdullah, his office said, and they agreed to press for a "de-escalation" of the tensions.
Trudeau and the Jordanian king also agreed "on the need to remain focused on fighting Daesh," the statement said, referring the Islamic State group.
NATO, which suspended its training mission in Iraq after the killing, said earlier on Tuesday it also was temporarily "repositioning" some personnel to locations inside and outside Iraq.
Several other countries, including Germany and Romania, announced plans to move their forces. France, for its part, said it had no intention to withdraw its troops from Iraq.
France has contributed around 200 soldiers to the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group (IS), of whom 160 are tasked with training Iraqi military personnel, according to the defence ministry.
"Since Friday we have reinforced security for our French soldiers deployed in Iraq," Defence Minister Florence Parly tweeted Tuesday.
"The priority today is the same as it was yesterday and should be tomorrow: the fight against Daesh and its resurgence on the ground in the Middle East, and its propaganda on the internet," Parly added, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
The government source confirmed that there were no plans for a French pullout.
Overall, France has around a thousand soldiers based in the Middle East region as part of Operation Chammal, the French component of the anti-IS coalition.
Romania's defence ministry said separately that its 14 soldiers taking part in the NATO deployment "will be temporarily relocated to another coalition base”.
Adding to the confusion were reports that an American general had mistakenly informed the Iraqi government that his troops were preparing to leave, requiring a hasty clarification from the Pentagon.
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