Iraq gives the green light to NATO
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that the Iraqi government has given the green light to NATO forces to stay in Iraq.
Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels, during a meeting of NATO defense ministers, that “the Government of Iraq has assured us of its desire to continue NATO’s training, advisory and capacity-building activities for the Iraqi armed forces.”
“We will stay in Iraq as long as we are welcome,” he added.
This comes weeks after Iraq demanded that foreign forces leave the country, after the United States killed the prominent Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad airport.
The Canadian-led NATO Training Mission in Iraq began in 2018 and includes nearly 500 military personnel, but the mission stopped last month after Soleimani’s death.
The plan currently provides for the transfer of hundreds of trainers who work with international forces fighting ISIS in Iraq to the NATO training mission, and unlike the international coalition, the NATO training effort does not include combat operations.
Stoltenberg did not reveal details about the number of troops that might be added to the training force or the activities that might eventually be carried out, but more details may be revealed after the meetings of senior officials of the anti-ISIS coalition in Munich, Germany, on Friday.
Officials have said that “a few hundred” troops will change their roles. The first step is to expand the training process to three other bases in central Iraq. The second step, perhaps in the summer, involves changing the mandate of the mission to undertake more activities currently being undertaken by the US-led international coalition.
The move is essentially a paraphrase of the mission aimed at meeting US President Donald Trump’s demands that NATO do more in the Middle East. No additional forces will be deployed to the area. Source