ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A new NATO-led mission in Iraq has begun its work to develop the country’s security institutions and structures further.
The new mission, called NATO Mission Iraq, was launched at the NATO Summit held in Brussels on July 11 and 12, 2018, at the Iraqi government’s request. The mission began its work on Oct. 31.
“The NATO training mission is now up and running in Iraq, an important component in enabling professional Iraqi forces to ensure the lasting defeat of” the Islamic State (IS), Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat IS, said on Saturday.
Lieutenant General Jamil al Shimari, Commander of Iraq’s National Defense University, expressed his appreciation for NATO support.
“This mission is important because properly trained Iraqi security forces are those who made the difference, ultimately, in the defeat of [IS],” he said.
According to NATO officials, the mission’s objective is to contribute to Iraq’s stability now that the extremist group is weakened.
Jana Kotorova, NATO Deputy Senior Civilian in Iraq, said the organization had trained about 1,000 Iraqi soldiers to become instructors at different military schools in the country.
“NATO advisors have been working alongside Iraqi officials, in a spirit of close coordination and partnership,” Kotorova said in a statement.
“With the establishment of the new mission, NATO will contribute to the stability of the country by providing further training and advice to Iraqi security institutions and structures,” she added.
The outgoing NATO senior officer in Iraq, Brigadier-General Francesco Giuliano, hopes it will build a new relationship between NATO and Iraq.
“I look forward to growing the relationship fostered by the NATO training and capacity building in Iraq between the Government of Iraq and NATO, leveraging the full weight of the Alliance to help enhance Iraqi security institutions,” he said.
A NATO spokesperson previously told Kurdistan 24 the mission would “only train members of the Iraqi Security Forces under the direct control of the Government of Iraq.”
“Some Allies conduct training for Peshmerga forces outside the NATO framework,” they added.
The new NATO Mission in Iraq is expected to be fully set up in early 2019. It will be a non-combat mission and will have advisors working closely with officials of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and the Office of the National Security Advisor.
It will also train Iraqi instructors at Iraqi military schools and academies in such areas as countering explosive devices, civil-military planning, armored vehicle maintenance, and military medicine.
Diplomats and experts, meanwhile, believe IS still poses a threat, and there is a need to train Iraqi forces.
During the 2018 MERI Forum on Oct. 24, Italy’s Ambassador to Iraq Bruno Pasquino said that “without physical security in the society there will be no stabilization” in the wake of IS’ resurgence.
“We all hear about daily, constant attacks, and kidnappings,” he noted.
According to Joel Wing, an Iraq analyst and author of “Musings on Iraq,” it is vital that Coalition countries continue to train Iraq’s forces.
“[IS] is rebuilding, so there is still much work to be done in Iraq,” he told Kurdistan 24.
“NATO and other countries need to keep up their training missions and help the Iraqis deal with this continuing threat.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany