NATO to resume, upscale operations in Iraq

(L-R) Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, US President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg look on as Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel speaks during a working dinner meeting at the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) headquarters in Brussels on May 25, 2017 during a NATO summit. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Matt Dunham (Photo credit should read MATT DUNHAM/AFP/Getty Images)

Brussels, Feb 13 (IANS) The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will resume its operations in Iraq, one month after the alliance suspended its mission due to the tension that occurred in the country following the US attack on an Iranian military leader early January.

“Today, ally ministers reaffirmed their support to Iraq and agreed in principle to enhance NATO’s training mission,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference on Wednesday after the ministerial meeting in Brussels, Xinhua reported.

It is also agreed at a meeting attended by the defence ministers of NATO members to upscale their current operations in Iraq so as to ease the burden faced by the US-led coalition fighting against the militant group IS (the Islamic State).

“Ministers also agreed to explore what more we can do beyond this first step,” Stoltenberg added, without elaborating on the type or size of operations that could be transferred from the US-led forces to the NATO structure.

NATO is now engaged in a non-combat mission in Iraq, focusing on mentoring and advising Iraqi national defence forces and military education institutions. The several hundred-strong team is led by a Canadian commander.

The mission was halted after a US drone attack that killed Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad International Airport on January 3 and triggered strong reaction both from Iraq and from Iran. NATO members then pulled out the majority of their personnel from Iraq out of security concern.

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