Dutch air mission ends but Peshmerga, Iraqi training continues

The Dutch army will continue to support the training of Iraqi and Kurdish armed forces.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Dutch Ministry of Defense on Tuesday announced that Dutch F-16 jets would return to the Netherlands on Jan. 2 after they were pulled out of the mission against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria.

According to the Ministry of Defense, the Dutch F-16 fighter jets have completed their work in the Middle East. It added that the jets were used in over 3,000 missions in Iraq and eastern Syria during the last year.

The four Dutch F-16s operating from Jordan were supporting ground troops in the fight against IS, taking part in nine missions and using force in seven of them. There were also two additional jets in reserve.

During the last month of their mission, the aircraft was deployed over the Syrian province of Deir al-Zor in support of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that are still fighting IS despite a planned US withdrawal. 

The Dutch Ministry of Defense said the fighter jets would not be able to continue its contribution to the anti-IS mission because the Dutch army needs units for NATO and for various other missions. It also facilitates a transition for the new fighter jet, the F-35.

Despite this, the Dutch army will continue to support the training of Iraqi and Kurdish armed forces.

During a visit to Iraq last week, Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten noted that the fight against IS was ongoing, and that “the current stability in Iraq is fragile.”

Dutch State Secretary for Defense Barbera Visser accompanied Bijleveld-Schouten. The two visited Baghdad and also Camp Stephan in the Kurdistan Region capital of Erbil where 50 Dutch soldiers are training Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

On Dec. 18, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said his country hoped to see a “stronger” Kurdistan Region as it forms a new government, adding that the Dutch army would continue to train Peshmerga.

Meanwhile, the Dutch Parliament is expected to hold a session soon to discuss US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria as well as a proposal to possibly send Dutch troops to the war-torn country.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany