ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Although the Islamic State has suffered a military defeat in Iraq, the threat from the extremist group is still present in the country, Maj.Gen. Dany Fortin, Commander of the NATO Mission in Iraq, warned in a recent interview.
Speaking to Kurdistan 24 on the sidelines of the Rafidain Forum in Baghdad on Feb. 5, Fortin said security forces in the country need to be prepared for a possible re-emergence of the terrorist group.
Although “the Iraqi military forces and security forces defeated, militarily, Da’esh or ISIS,” there is “still the underlying cause of conflict very present in the country, and I would submit that the forces need to get ready for an insurgency, should that materialize,” he stated.
“Baghdad is safe. But the threat is still around us, and we have to continue to be very careful, and that’s true for police and military forces alike.”
In August, Canada’s Department of National Defense appointed Fortin to lead the country’s NATO mission in Iraq.
NATO’s new mission in Iraq was launched at the Brussels summit last July. It reflects the efforts of US President Donald Trump to have US allies bear more of the burden of common defense.
The mission builds on past NATO efforts to train Iraqi forces as they work to prevent the re-emergence of the Islamic State and other militant groups. Led by Canada, NATO’s includes hundreds of trainers and also involves setting up military schools to increase the professionalism of Iraqi forces.
In an emailed to Kurdistan 24 ahead of the mission’s launch, the Canadian Department of National Defense said that “Canada has committed to providing up to 250 troops to the mission.” It added that the program would focus “on the train-the-trainer approach,” aiming for the Iraqi security forces “to be self-sufficient in the long term.”
“We’ve been in [the] country here as a mission for three months now, and we’re operating in the Greater Baghdad Area, in [Camp] Taji, Basmaya Military Training Centers, as well as here in Baghdad, in the city,” Fortin told Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday.
The Canadian officer explained that his mandate is to enhance the capacity of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense forces in Baghdad, noting that his team is “working very hard with the authorities to enhance the capacity from the ministerial level down to the tactical level by training trainers.”
“I want to go from foreigners training Iraqis to Iraqis training Iraqis, primarily in MoD.”
Editing by Laurie Mylroie
(Blessa Shaweys conducted the interview)