At the upcoming NATO ministerial meeting, military leaders from NATO countries are expected to agree to expand the alliance’s military training presence in Iraq once coronavirus restrictions ease.
NATO defense ministers, including US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, are meeting virtually on Wednesday and Thursday. Sources told Reuters that on Thursday, the military officials are expected to agree to increase NATO’s mission in Iraq from its current maximum of some 500 troops to around 4,000 or 5,000.
NATO has had a “non-combat train-and-advise” presence in Iraq since October 2018. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg discussed the increase in NATO’s training mission in Iraq on Monday, which he expects the defense ministers to agree on. “The mission will expand gradually, in response to the situation,” he said.
Afghanistan is also going to be discussed during the ministerial meeting. While the US-Taliban peace deal signed last year paved the way for a May 1st withdrawal of all foreign forces, NATO is signaling it wants to stay. There hasn’t been an official announcement, but NATO sources told Reuters that the alliance plans to stay beyond the May deadline.