Dutch military to send up to 150 new soldiers to Kurdistan Region

The Dutch Council of Ministers agreed on Friday to send between 100 to 150 extra soldiers to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to protect Erbil International Airport.
author_image Wladimir van Wilgenburg

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Dutch Council of Ministers agreed on Friday to send up to 150 extra soldiers to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to protect Erbil International Airport.

“The Netherlands government decided to deploy 100-150 troops in North-Iraq. They will be responsible for the security of Erbil airport, together with US forces. This is part of the anti-ISIS coalition efforts in the region,” Dutch Consul General in the Kurdistan Region, Hans Akerboom, told Kurdistan 24 on Saturday.

The Dutch government also said that Kurdish and Iraqi armed forces play an important role in the fight against the Islamic State and underlined that the terrorist organization is “still a source of instability on the fringes of Europe.” 

During a meeting between Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Nov. 9 in the Netherlands, the Dutch premier reiterated his country’s continued support for the Kurdistan Region in its ongoing counter-terrorism efforts. 

Read More: Kurdistan, Dutch prime ministers talk strengthening bilateral ties 

“After the loss of its caliphate in March 2019, ISIS engaged in an underground guerrilla fight in Iraq and Syria. ISIS carries out dozens of attacks every month against the Iraqi government, security forces and the local population,” the Dutch government continued.

From 2015 until April 2020, Dutch forces trained a total of 100,000 Iraqi security forces, including the Kurdish Peshmerga, as part of the Coalition’s Capacity Building Mission Iraq. The Peshmerga were being trained on marksmanship, leadership, and protecting large areas.

Dutch soldiers were part of the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center (KTCC), also linked to the Coalition. Troops who conducted extensive training at the KTCC include personnel from the United Kingdom, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, and the Netherlands.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coalition decided to halt the training mission in both the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. The 20 Dutch trainers who were active in Erbil returned to the Netherlands in April, with only a few Dutch staff officers remaining to work on the transition from training to new advisory tasks.

The new Dutch Force Protection Unit will work with the United States to secure the personnel and equipment of the anti-Islamic State coalition at the airport. The first soldiers are expected to arrive in the Kurdistan Region in early January 2021. The exact end date will depend on developments in the broader campaign of the Coalition.

Editing by John J. Catherine