German defence chief warns of Islamic State resurgence

‘We need to keep in mind that in Iraq, IS is not yet defeated’, says defence minister. (AP pic)

DAVOS: Germany’s defence minister warned that Islamic State fighters could return in force in the Middle East if an international coalition is unable to continue its work against the militant organisation.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, speaking in an interview at the World Economic Forum on Thursday, said that Germany aims to keep its forces in Iraq, but can only do so at the behest of the government in Baghdad.

“We need to keep in mind that in Iraq, IS are not yet defeated,” Kramp-Karrenbauer told Bloomberg Television in Davos, Switzerland.

“If the pressure is reduced, then the danger is great that it resumes its regime of terror.”

The concerns by a key US ally underscore how the mission has been shaken since the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, which prompted the Iraqis to demand the departure of 5,000 American troops from the country.

The self-declared caliphate was largely subdued by early last year in Syria and Iraq, where it once controlled territory the size of Iceland.

Germany, which has some 120 troops in Iraq as part of an anti-IS campaign, suspended its operations amid the crisis. Thirty-two German troops were transferred to Jordan and three to Kuwait.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, who visited German troops in the region last week, said that the European nation had made progress in training Iraqi forces to fend off the militants.

The German defence chief, who is also Chancellor Angela Merkel’s presumptive heir as leader of her Christian Democratic Union, said that her country is doing more to take on global responsibility in the face of public scepticism about troop presence in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Mali.

“What we have to continue to explain in domestic politics is why these missions serve our own interests,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said.