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Denmark to send additional 285 military personnel to Iraq

In its capacity with the NATO mission in the country, Denmark will deploy 285 military personnel to Iraq to train and advise Iraqi security forces fighting against Islamic State (ISIS) remnants, according to a Danish foreign ministry statement released Thursday.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) training mission in Iraq began in October 2018 and is currently led by Canada. However, Denmark offered to take charge of NATO’s training mission in Iraq for a period of 18 months starting in 2021 last November.

“Danish leadership of NATO’s Mission in Iraq will strengthen the ability of Iraqi security forces to provide the country’s own security for the benefit of Iraq’s people,” Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod said in a statement on Thursday. “By strengthening our contribution to stabilizing Iraq, we both reduce the risk of new refugee crises while increasing our protection against the threat posed by terrorist groups such as ISIL.”

The Danish parliament agreed on Thursday to send up to 195 staff and military equipment, including a ship and helicopter to the Strait of Hormuz for a four months period starting from August 2020, according to the statement.

NATO decided to launch a training mission in Iraq in 2018, involving around 500 troops with the aim of building the capacity of the country’s armed forces to better fight ISIS.

The organization announced it was preparing to shift troops from the US-led coalition to defeat ISIS to the alliance earlier this year.

However, following the US drone strike on January 3 which killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad airport, the Iraqi parliament passed a non-binding resolution demanding the expulsion of all foreign forces, and the NATO operation was placed on hold.

Iraq decided in January to review its security relationship with the US-led coalition by attempting to reach a new security agreement with NATO.

In this new deal, foreign troops would remain in Iraq under the control of NATO. Their role would be limited to training and advising, and would no longer be permitted to carry out ground operations.

Last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi invited NATO’s Secretary-General to visit Baghdad “as soon as possible” to discuss ways of increasing collaboration with the NATO mission in Iraq.

There are fears a premature withdrawal of foreign troops could allow ISIS to resurge.

ISIS has increased its attacks and insurgencies in different areas of western and northern Iraq against Iraqi security forces recently, which comes after US-led coalition troops withdrew from six military bases in western and northern Iraq in the space of a month during March and April.

Iraq’s new Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has placed tackling ISIS high on his list of priorities.

The leader placed providing more military equipment and weaponry to security forces “in order to face the increased ISIS activities in liberated provinces [once under the group’s territorial control],” on his agenda published on May 6.

Formed in 2014 after ISIS swept across large areas of Syria and Iraq, the 82-country coalition has supported Iraqi and Peshmerga forces with training, equipment, and air cover.

ISIS was declared territorially defeated in Iraq in December 2017.  However, remnants of the group continue to wage a low-level insurgency, launching ambushes, kidnappings, and targeted killings. Source