Foreign Minister Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir has decided to remove an Icelandic Crisis Response Unit (ICRU) member from a NATO training program for the Iraqi army in Baghdad next month, causing disappointment among NATO leaders.
The ICRU member has been working in Baghdad for the last two years, primarily as a media representative, and will cease working there October 1, Morgunbladid reports.
John Craddock, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe for NATO and the US European Command, said at a press conference in Iceland yesterday that Iceland is an important and active NATO member and that he was disappointed with Gísladóttir’s decision.
But Craddock added that he understands that NATO member nations have to make decisions according to their best interests and “estimate what they can do and what they cannot do, what they want to do and what they don’t.”
Gísladóttir was asked at the press conference whether she would withdraw ICRU members from NATO projects in Afghanistan as well. The minister said she would not, as the situation in Afghanistan is different from that in Iraq.
“In Afghanistan, NATO has a certain role to play on behalf of the UN, which a multi-national team supports, and we all know that the conflict in Iraq began differently [than that in Afghanistan],” the minister said, adding that the Icelanders who have worked in Iraq were there as part of military operations.
When asked whether the same applies to the ICRU members in Afghanistan, Gísladóttir replied that was the case, but repeated, “we look at Iraq differently from Afghanistan.” The minister added her decision coincides with the government’s declaration that it regrets the war in Iraq.
Gísladóttir said Iceland should focus on other development programs related to Iraq, like educational programs for Iraqi refugees. Nearly two million Iraqis are believed to have fled the country and now seeking refuge in Jordan or Syria.