NATO to increase Iraq personnel from 500 to 4,000

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 group at bay, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday.

“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 tells reporters after chairing a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

NATO’s training mission was launched in 2018 to help the conflict-ravaged country develop new academies and military schools for its armed forces. It was initially confined to the capital, Baghdad, and neighboring Jordan.

The mission was temporarily suspended last year after a US drone strike killed Iran’s top general at Baghdad airport, angering the Iraqi government.

Stoltenberg says he has spoken with Iraqi leaders and that “everything will be done in full consultation with the Iraqi authorities.” He also underlines 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 says. 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.

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