In Rudaw 

Turkey sends 25 military consultants to Baghdad to support Iraqi army: defense ministry

The Turkish Army deployed 25 military consultants to Baghdad on Tuesday to support the Iraqi army as part of a NATO mission in the country, the Turkish defense ministry has said.

“As part of NATO Mission Iraq (NM-I), our military consultants were dispatched to Baghdad to support the friendly and brotherly Iraqi army,” read a tweet from the ministry.

“A total of 25 personnel, including one Brigadier General will serve in NATO Mission Iraq,” it added.

This comes a week after Turkish defense minister Hulusi Akar’s rare visit to Iraq. Akar discussed boosting military relations with Iraqi and Kurdish officials in his visit, and apparently sought support from Baghdad and Erbil for its ongoing military operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Kurdistan Region and disputed territories. Pundits expect a joint operation by the three governments against the PKK soon.

Ankara announced fresh air and ground offensive against the PKK – which it considers a terrorist group – in the Kurdistan Region in mid-June, which killed has several civilians. Military engagements generally reduce during the winter months due to weather conditions, but the air offensive has continued. The military action has been widely condemned by Baghdad.

It is unclear if Tuesday’s deployment was discussed during Akar’s visit as part of Turkey’s fight against the PKK in Iraq.

Turkey is a key member of NATO, and took the lead of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) from Poland on January 1, according to a statement from the organization.

The VJTF was created by NATO members in 2014 in response to a changed security environment in Ukraine and the Middle East.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised Turkey’s contributions to NATO missions, including in Iraq, in a visit to Turkey in October. Source