Dutch to resume training of Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces

The Dutch army will soon resume their training mission in Erbil and Baghdad, the European nation’s Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten confirmed to the Dutch parliament on Friday.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Dutch army will soon resume its training mission in Erbil and Baghdad, the European nation’s Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten told the Dutch parliament on Friday.

“This was only a temporary decision, with a goal to resume the regular activities in Iraq whenever possible. ISIS has not yet been defeated,” the Bijleveld-Schouten said. “The Commander of the anti-ISIS mission in Baghdad is in daily contact with the Iraqi authorities on this subject.”

The Coalition commander in Baghdad earlier suspended a training mission for Iraqi soldiers and Peshmerga forces on Jan. 4, due to security threats after the US assassination of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3, the Dutch Defense Ministry said on Friday.

Earlier, Col. Myles Caggins, Spokesman for the US-led Coalition, formally known as Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Resolve (CJTF-OIR), told Kurdistan 24 that the “training is paused, but we are constantly reassessing.”

As a result, all training missions were suspended, and Coalition troops, including Dutch troops, were repositioned. 

Dutch Defense Ministry spokesperson Alex Kranenburg told Kurdistan 24 that it was still unclear which exact date the training would be re-enacted, but said it would “resume as soon as possible.”

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) suspended its training programs as well after the killing of Soleimani. 

Read More: NATO suspends training in Iraq following Qasim Soleimani killing: spokesperson 

However, Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten added that NATO has not yet made the final decision to resume the activities of the NATO Mission in Iraq (NMI).

“The government is as always closely monitoring the situation. The assessment of the Commandant of the anti-ISIS mission in Baghdad is leading in this,” she added.

On Jan. 8, Iran launched over a dozen surface-to-surface missiles at the Ain al-Assad airbase in the western Anbar province that houses American and coalition troops as well as a base in the Kurdistan Region’s capital of Erbil, in which no Coalition soldiers were killed.

Also, no Dutch troops were harmed in the rocket attacks.

The Dutch Defense Ministry on Friday said on its website that the CJTF-OIR in Baghdad has confirmed that the security situation is no more an obstacle for the training mission.

In May 2019, the Coalition’s training program in the Kurdistan Region was also temporarily suspended due to a higher threat level as a result of tensions between the US and Iran in the region.

Currently, 40 Dutch soldiers are maintaining the training of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Camp Stephan, located in the Kurdistan Region’s capital of Erbil. Moreover, in Baghdad, three to twelve commandos are training Iraqi Special Forces.

The Dutch soldiers are part of the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center (KTCC). The Coalition troops who are conducting training at the KTCC include personnel from the United Kingdom, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, and the Netherlands.

The Peshmerga are being trained on marksmanship, leadership, and protecting large areas.

Editing by John J. Catherine