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Stoltenberg Says NATO to Reinforce Iraq Mission

Stoltenberg Says NATO to Reinforce Iraq Mission

Saturday, 24 October, 2020 - 07:30
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks at a news conference in Brussels, Belgium. Reuters file photo

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday a meeting of western military alliance defense ministers had agreed to expand its training mission in Iraq to help Iraqi forces fight extremism.


"While the security situation remains challenging, NATO remains committed to stepping up our support," said Stoltenberg after a two-day defense ministers' meeting in Brussels.


"Our aim is to help build self-sustaining Iraqi forces able to fight terrorism, prevent the return of ISIS, and stabilize their country," added Stoltenberg, citing a "concerning" rise in the number and sophistication of attacks against international forces in Iraq.


NATO maintains a 500-strong training mission in the country to prepare local forces in the event of attacks from ISIS extremists.


Stoltenberg said the scope of the mission's upgrading would be decided at a meeting of alliance defense ministers in February.


Anti-US sentiment spiked anew in Iraq following the January killing of Iranian military commander Major General Qassem Soleimani in a US airstrike near Baghdad, leading to a suspension of NATO training of Iraqi forces.


The Covid-19 pandemic also forced the alliance to dial down numbers earlier this year but the mission has since returned to full capacity, AFP quoted Stoltenberg as saying.


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