ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Canadian head of NATO’s mission in Iraq on Thursday reassured the public that there have been no interruptions to its training of local forces despite ongoing disputes between the United States and Iran.
Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, Commander of NATO Mission Iraq, made the comments at a press briefing at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
According to Fortin, his forces had “sufficiently mitigated” the threat from Iran and were not affected by current heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.
Last month, the White House announced it was dispatching an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the region in response to intelligence that Tehran was planning an attack against US targets, interests, or allies.
Shortly after, the US State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency US government employees from its embassy in Baghdad and consulate-general in the Kurdistan Region’s Erbil, as well as the suspension of normal visa services.
The German and Dutch Defense Ministries also temporarily paused their training missions in Iraq, although the Netherlands resumed its program a few days later.
At Thursday’s press briefing, Fortin did not downplay the potential “risk” and “critical threat” which Iran poses in the region but insisted NATO forces were prepared to deal with any potential security hazard.
“We have force protection measures in place to ensure that we’re vigilant, unpredictable, we change things, but we can continue our activities,” he told reporters.
“So, it hasn’t affected our advising, our training activities whatsoever.”
In August, Canada’s Department of National Defense appointed Fortin to lead the country’s NATO mission in Iraq.
The present mission in the embattled nation 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 and builds on past NATO efforts to train Iraqi forces as they work to prevent the re-emergence of the Islamic State and other terror groups.
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.”
Editing by John J. Catherine