German defense minister weighs keeping forces in Middle East post-ISIS


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — As the fight against ISIS on the Syria-Iraq border by the US-led coalition wraps up, Germany is considering a continued military presence in the Middle East.

“First we must bring this deployment to a successful end. I don’t want to rule the idea out, let me put it this way,” Reuters quoted Germany Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen as telling reporters on Saturday in Jordan.

Leyen was inspecting forces at Azraq air base that has around 300 German troops. Germany pulled its forces from Incirlik in Turkey in 2017 after a diplomatic fallout and German MPs complaining they were unable to inspect forces there.

Germany contributes to coalition refueling and has Tornado jets conducting reconnaissance missions.

Leyen and other top decision-makers in Berlin, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, called last week for efforts to be undertaken to prevent a chemical weapons’ attack from being carried out in Syria’s Idlib ahead of an expected regime assault on the governorate.

The issue of German military support in the Middle East is highly politicized with many leftists being pacifists or non-interventionists, and Social Democrats not supporting military action without a direct mandate from the United Nations.

Germany has been a strong supporter of the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga, providing arms, training, and advising since the Kurdish forces first fought back against the extremist group in 2014.

Pockets of ISIS remnants remain in Iraq, despite incumbent Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s declaration of victory over the extremist group in December 2017.

NATO will take on a larger role training Iraqi forces through Baghdad at the end of this year.




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