NATO defense ministers decided on Thursday to boost the number of the alliance’s troops in Iraq.
“NATO is planning to scale up its mission training Iraq’s security forces with thousands of new personnel as the military alliance seeks to help keep the Islamic State (IS) group at bay”, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters after chairing a meeting of NATO defense ministers.
“The size of our mission will increase from 500 personnel to around 4,000. And training activities will now include more Iraqi security institutions, and areas beyond Baghdad,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO’s training mission was launched in 2018, allegedly to help the country develop new academies and military schools for its armed forces. It was initially confined to the capital, Baghdad, and in neighboring Jordan.
The mission was temporarily suspended last year after the US strike which killed top Iranian general Qassem Suleimani and Hashd Shaabi commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, in a move that angered the Iraqi government.
Stoltenberg said he had spoken with Iraqi leaders and that “everything will be done in full consultation with the Iraqi authorities.” He also underlined that increases in troop numbers would be gradual.
“We will increase the geographical presence of the NATO training mission, beyond the greater Baghdad area, but again, step by step,” Stoltenberg said. The mission was led by Canada for two years, but Denmark is now taking control.
Unlike the US-led coalition in Iraq, NATO’s training effort does not involve combat operations.