Defense minister: abandoning Iraq would have dramatic consequences

Defense Minister Artis Pabriks (Development/For!) told Latvian Radio on January 14 the Latvian government decided to extend the mandate for the National Armed forces to continue participation in the international operation in Iraq battling Daesh, and on January 15 he spoke on LTV’s morning broadcast “Rīta Panorāma” about the significance of the mission and Latvia’s participation.

The mandate doesn’t contain an obligation to participate in the mission, but provides the opportunity. The final decision whether to continue participation in the mission will be up to Saeima. The 81-state coalition is currently in talks with partners about the future of the mission, but Pabriks reiterated that respecting Iraq’s sovereignty, if Iraq asks the mission to leave, then Latvian soldiers will leave.

“In the case that this mission as a whole is discontinued in the region, then the security consequences could be rather dramatic beginning from, let’s say, Afghanistan to even the Mediterranean,” said Pabriks.

The Minister continued that the government in Iraq is currently not very stable, and that if the government is not strong it leaves the door open for various proxy forces, including from Iran. And sooner or later if terrorist forces take hold in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, then they will eventually threaten European security. “With Schengen and open borders, that also means security threats for Latvia,” said Pabriks.

“It’s important for society to understand that regardless of this specific mission, it’s in Latvia’s national interest to participate in various international missions, and our work, our soldier participation in these missions around the world will continue, because the world will never be super-safe,” said the Minister.

As previously reported, one of the US air bases in Iraq that suffered from an Iranian missile attack on the morning of January 8 also contained six Latvian soldiers, who were unharmed in the attack, Defense Ministry Representative Kaspars Galkins said on Latvian Television’s “Rīta Panorāma” broadcast the same morning.

Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš also pointed out that the Latvian soldiers are currently in Iraq participating in the mission at the request of the Iraq government, and although the Iraq Parliament passed a resolution to expel foreign soldiers, the government has yet to say anything in this regard.

The Latvian military instructors had already ceased the Iraq army training exercises they were conducting in cooperation with coalition partners from the Baltics, Scandinavia and the US, Defense Minister Artis Pabrliks (Development/For!) told LTV’s “Panorāma” broadcast on January 6.

In the evening on January 8 Pabriks tweeted his thanks to all Latvian soldiers for their excellent performance in anti-ISIS coalition and announced that the military experts will withdraw to Kuwait for the time being. He also reassured the coalition and US that Latvia remains reliable partner.
 

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