America is pressing NATO to expand its functions in Iraq and send trainers[/rtl]
[rtl]Release date: 2018/2/8 8:56 • 137 times read[/rtl]
(Reuters) - The United States is renewing pressure on its European partners in NATO to start a long-term mission in Iraq to train and advise to reopen a controversial issue in a troubled alliance after 10 years on a mission in Afghanistan, diplomats said.
Five senior NATO diplomats said US Defense Secretary Jim Matisse sent a letter to NATO headquarters in January calling for the formation of an official NATO mission in Iraq with permanent or semi-permanent command to train Iraqi forces.
After a nearly three-year war with a preacher, Washington wants to ensure that militants do not return again, and although the Alliance already has trainers in Iraq, the number is less than 20.
NATO defense ministers are expected to discuss the US demand in Brussels next week and a decision is likely to be made at a summit in July.
Diplomats said Matisse had left many details open in his letter but noted the development of military academies and a military doctrine for the Iraqi Defense Ministry.
Other ideas diplomats have included include bomb disposal training and the maintenance of Soviet-era vehicles as well as medical training.
"The United States is pressing hard for a role for NATO in Iraq, not a combat role, but a long-term mission," a senior NATO diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
"This is as suspicious as Afghanistan," the diplomat said, referring to the long-running war in which the alliance funds and trains Afghan forces.
"Very few allies want it," he said.
US Defense Department spokesman Johnny Michael declined to discuss whether Matisse had sent a message to the alliance, but said: "The administration is continuing to look for ways in which allies can do more to counter terrorist organizations."
US Admiral James Fogo, commander of the NATO Joint Force in Naples, Italy, visited Baghdad on Thursday and told Reuters the visit was to discuss further support for Iraq, including an explosives training center.
"The alliance can do more, and I think if you ask me, we have to give more, but the decision is actually up to the political leadership in Brussels," Fujo said.
Diplomats said the NATO chiefs would present ministers with a number of options to establish a mission in Iraq, while NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg would discuss the issue with Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi, who supports the idea. "
US pressure is part of US President Donald Trump's demand to go beyond The Western alliance has the primary task of defending the territory of its state and helping to stop Islamic militancy.
Trump attacked allies in May at a summit in Brussels that warned of more attacks in Europe if NATO did not do more to stop the militants, and former President Barack Obama was seeking a greater role for the alliance in the Middle East.
US officials then raised the possibility that the alliance would run the US-led coalition to fight a duel as NATO did in the 2003
US- led mission in Afghanistan. The United States sees NATO's long experience in Afghanistan as ideally suited to rehabilitate Iraqi forces after the The United States has more than 5,000 troops in Iraq.
European allies, however, fear a drift to another open, costly and unpopular mission at home and at risk.
In a gesture to Trump, the 29-member alliance agreed last year to join the alliance, yet France and Germany insisted that the decision was essentially symbolic.
The discussions did not touch on the size of any mission likely to be approved by NATO, but diplomats said it was necessary to be much larger than the current team to calm Trump.
The mission may include regional training centers outside Baghdad.
"This is an area where we can prove its importance," a second diplomat said, noting that the allies were well aware of the criticism raised by Trump during his campaign in 2016 that the alliance was "outdated" because it was not doing more to tackle the militants.
The implementation of an official NATO mission would increase funding, pooling troops and arranging a situation that would allow them to remain in the field longer.
A difficult problem is whether the military trainers will need protection and who will provide them.
Diplomats also said Iraq would need to make a formal request for the NATO mission.
This will likely depend on Ebadi's victory in a new election in May as rival candidates backed by Iran are rebuffing the idea of US troops staying in the country.
But diplomats said the pressure was greater because NATO had so far been unable to pursue a similar request for training and advice from the Libyan government backed by the United Nations in Tripoli because rival factions still control Libya.
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