Danish soldiers leave Iraq amid Middle East tensions

100 Danish soldiers arrived in Kuwait on Thursday after Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced that they were to temporarily relocate from the al-Asad base in Iraq.

Danish soldiers leave Iraq amid Middle East tensions
A file photo showing Danish Minister of Defence Trine Bramsen meeting military personnel. Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix

The al-Asad base was one of two military bases hit by Iranian missile strikes earlier this week. The strikes were carried out by Iran in retaliation for the killing of its major general Qassem Soleimani by the United States last week in Baghdad.

Denmark’s defence minister Trine Bramsen wrote on social media that the soldiers had landed in Kuwait. That was confirmed by the Danish armed forces (Forsvaret) on its website.

The 100 soldiers were transported to Kuwait by a Danish Hercules transport aircraft.

“Our soldiers have landed in Kuwait. Their safety is the first priority. I hope they can continue the fight against Isil [terror group Islamic State (Isis), ed.] soon,” Bramsen tweeted.

The announcement from the Danish government came after Iran attacked two military bases in Iraq on Wednesday night, including the al-Asad base, where 133 Danish soldiers are stationed. Danish personnel at the base are involved in training Iraqi forces.

The Danish government has taken the view that, under current circumstances, its personnel cannot continue the work in Iraq.

“I am pleased that the relocation has taken place quickly and on schedule. And I have great respect for the soldiers still at the base, where they continue to carry out important duties,” Bramsen said via the Danish armed forces’ website.

In addition to the 133 soldiers at the al-Asad base, Denmark also has eight staff officers at Nato's Mission Iraq in Baghdad. The eight personnel have also been temporarily moved to Kuwait.

READ ALSO: Denmark parliament to discuss presence of soldiers in Iraq

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No re-opening of Iraq war commission: Danish government

The new Danish government will not be re-opening an official inquiry into the country’s 2003 decision to participate in the US-led military coalition in Iraq.

No re-opening of Iraq war commission: Danish government
File photo: Morten Stricker/Midtjyske Medier/Ritzau Scanpix

The commission was shut down by the previous government, led by the Liberal party, which was also in power in 2003 when then-prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen decided to send Danish troops to Iraq.

Social Democratic foreign minister Jeppe Kofod confirmed to DR on Monday that the new government did not intend to re-open the commission.

In opposition, the party’s leader Mette Frederiksen had advocated for the government to re-open the inquiry.

“The decision regarding Danish participation (in the Iraq war) goes back 15-20 years,” Kofod said to DR.

“We now have a historical account of the war, so we clearly have a good basis on which to look at what happened at the time,” Kofod said with reference to an academic report on Denmark's military engagements in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, which was published in February this year.

According to that report, the government at the time, a Liberal-Conservative coalition, was given information which stated there was no clear evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

But then-PM Rasmussen stated to parliament and to media that this was the case.

In 2012, the government – at that time, a left-wing coalition led by the Social Democrats – appointed a commission to scrutinize Denmark’s decision to join the US-led military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That commission was closed by the Liberal government in 2015, despite Social Democratic protestations.

The academic report which was eventually published this year was a replacement for the commission. That report made several criticisms of the decision to participate in the Iraq war.

Subsequently, left-wing parties including the Social Liberals, Red Green Alliance and Socialist People’s Party called for the commission to be reinstated. That eventuality has now been closed off by Kofod.

READ ALSO: Former Danish foreign minister denies 'streamlining' information on Iraq war