Iraq News - Local News - Baghdadpost

Nato Looks Into Reinforcing Its Mission in Iraq at Trump’s Request

Senior officials and diplomats said on Tuesday that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is looking to increase its training mission in Iraq in order to reduce the burden on the US-led coalition against ISIS.

The alliance and the coalition are carrying out two non-combat missions for “training and consulting” with the aim of developing the Iraqi security forces, but the two missions were suspended due to concerns related to regional stability after the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a US strike earlier this year.

Following the Jan. 3 assassination, US President Donald Trump demanded that NATO - founded in 1949 to contain the military threat of the Soviet Union at that time - exert more efforts in the Middle East, without publicly specifying the type of efforts.

Reuters on Tuesday quoted NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg as saying that NATO defense ministers, including US Secretary of State Mark Esper, would discuss options for non-combat operations in the Middle East at a two-day meeting in Brussels starting on Wednesday.

“We are discussing what more NATO can do,” he told reporters, adding that the alliance would first seek to restart the training with the Iraqi government’s blessing.

Reuters also reported that US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said the alliance was seeking military advice, both from NATO and Iraq, on how to increase the mission, but gave no details.

“I think it will definitely be the answer to what President Trump has requested,” she said.

According to Reuters, the NATO training mission was established in Baghdad in October 2018 and includes 500 personnel. It does not deploy alongside Iraqi forces during their operations.

Two allied diplomats told Reuters the number of NATO trainers in Iraq could rise to as much as 2,000, but it would not be a net increase of Western troops in Iraq because the US-led coalition would simply re-assign trainers.