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NATO expected to step up support to Iraq- Stoltenberg

By Mohammad Ghazal - Feb 12,2020 - Last updated at Feb 12,2020

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg delivers press remarks in Brussels on Wednesday at the start of the meetings of NATO Defence ministers (Photo courtesy of NATO)

BRUSSELS— NATO defence ministers are expected to recommit to the alliance’s training mission in Iraq and step up support to the Iraqi government in the fight against terrorism, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

“What we will do at the defence ministerial meeting is that I expect ministers to re-commit to the training mission in Iraq and also to agree to step up and be ready to provide more support to Iraq,” he said in press remarks at the start of the two-day meetings of NATO defence ministers in Brussels on Wednesday.

In 2018, NATO agreed to start a training mission in Iraq involving around 500 troops to help build and support Iraq’s armed forces to combat extremist groups, but the NATO operations were suspended in January after a missile strike by the US resulted in the killing of Iran’s top general Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad airport.  The Iraqi government and parliament demanded that all foreign troops leave its territory.

“NATO has a training mission in Iraq…We are in Iraq upon the invitation by the Iraqi government and we will only stay in Iraq as long as we are welcome by the Iraqi government,” said Stoltenberg, underlining the importance of supporting Iraq and combating terrorism as it is “is extremely important that Daesh is never able to return.”

“People in Iraq have suffered because of Daesh, which is also a threat to all NATO allies because Daesh is an origination which has proven well to use terrorism to attack NATO allied countries,” Stoltenberg said in the press remarks.

Beyond Iraq, the defence ministers will be looking into what NATO could be doing more to boost its efforts in the fight against Daesh and international terrorism following a call in January by US President Donald Trump on the alliance to” become more involved in the Middle East".

“We will also look into what we can do beyond Iraq. NATO is already in the wider Middle East region; in Iraq and Afghanistan…we work closely with countries like Jordan and Tunisia and helping them with intelligence and special operation forces,” he said, adding that NATO has “good and constructive dialogue” with governments in the Middle East region.

In his press remarks, he said the defence ministers of the transatlantic alliance will address a wide range of different issues including NATO’s role in Afghanistan.

“NATO is committed to our training mission there. We strongly believe that that is the best way for NATO to support the peace process in the efforts to find a political, negotiated solution to the crisis in Afghanistan. And we would welcome any steps that can lead to reduction in violence,” he said.

“It is extremely important to convey a clear message to Taliban that they have to show and demonstrate a real will and ability to reduce violence and to engage in credible peace talks,” he said, adding that several other issues and developments will be discussed during the two-day gathering.


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