Latvian soldiers avoid injury in Iran attack on US military base in Iraq

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.

Galkins said the soldiers were informed about the impending attack and were able to adequately prepare to stay safe.

Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš (New Unity) also told “Rīta Panorāma”on the morning of January 8 that Latvian soldiers will leave Iraq and cease participation in the international mission against the Islamic State if such a request is stated by the Iraq government.

He 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.

“We’re there with a clear mandate, to help in the fight against the Islamic State,” said Kariņš.

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.

“Their operations were mainly conducted on the military base without leaving the territory. But of course Iraq has always been high risk zone. After Iranian General Soleimani was destroyed these training activities were halted for a time by all coalition instructors,” said Pabriks.

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.

 

 

The Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on the latest developments saying:

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia condemns the missile attack on coalition forces at bases in Iraqi territory. This morning, 8 January, the Islamic Republic of Iran launched ballistic missile attacks on two military bases within the territory of Iraq.

"The Latvian Foreign Ministry considers this aggressive action against the international coalition, which is engaged in training Iraqi security forces by Iran, to be unacceptable. The Foreign Ministry calls upon Iran to avoid escalating the situation in the region taking into account that increased tensions could negatively impact stability in the region. An increase in tensions and instability is no one’s interest.

"Bearing these incidents in mind, the Latvian Foreign Ministry strongly advises Latvian nationals not to travel to Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Yemen,"' the ministry said.

As previously reported, despite US forces' expected withdrawal from Syria and reduction of their mission in Afghanistan, the Latvian National Armed Forces continued their mission in Iraq and Afghanistan where Latvian troops are training local armies, the Defense Ministry told LSM on January 22.

Latvia is also part of the US-led Inherent Resolve mission in Iraq and Syria. There are six Latvian troops in the mission, and they are part of the Danish contingent on the ground. The current parliamentary mandate allows keeping their presence there until February 2020.  

Latvian troops do not take an active combat role in both operations. Latvia has been part of Resolute Support from 2015 and of Inherent Resolve from 2016. The troops will soon be rotated, as a leaving home ceremony was held on January 21 with soldiers going abroad presented with the traditional provisions, namely a Latvian flag and a loaf of rye bread.
 

 

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