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NATO announces plans to conduct significant expansion of mission in Iraq

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On 18 February, NATO ministers agreed to significantly expand the mission in Iraq from around 500 personnel to around 4,000 personnel. This move followed several months of deliberations between international military forces and the GoI. It is was assessed that the GoI and international military partners supported what was essentially the rebranding of US-led international military commitments. Intent involves reducing the Iraqi military’s dependency on US forces, in the hopes of reducing US-Iran tensions in Iraq and moderating the associated proxy war on Iraqi soil. NATO is expected to assume responsibility for most training functions and some advisory functions. A likely commensurate-sized US-led CF footprint under Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) will retain their focus on key operational advisory, intelligence support, and precision strike functions.

“We decided to expand Nato’s training mission in Iraq to support the Iraqi forces as they fight terrorism and ensure that ISIS does not return,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. He added that “training activities will now include more Iraqi security institutions, and areas beyond Baghdad.” The official reiterated that the increase in forces would be conducted gradually in cooperation with Iraqi leaders, including preceding discussions with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. The expanded NATO mission will fall under a Danish military commander, with forces expected to comprise Danish, British, Turkish, and allied forces from other countries.

For further discussion and analysis, please see the full report.

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