On Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the alliance is increasing its military presence in Iraq.
“The size of our mission will increase from 500 personnel to around 4,000 and training activities will now include more Iraqi security institutions and areas beyond Baghdad,” Stoltenberg said after a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers.
NATO describes its presence in Iraq as a “security training mission.” Stoltenberg said the alliance’s presence “is conditions-based and increases in troop numbers will be incremental.”
The US currently has 2,500 troops in Iraq. According to CNBC, a Pentagon official told reporters this week that the US was “enthusiastic about and welcomes NATO’s increased focus on Iraq.” The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, would not disclose if the US is planning to add more forces to Iraq.
The announcement comes after a rocket attack on the US military base in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, that left one contractor dead. While the media is blaming the incident on Iran, the US has yet to attribute blame. With Iran seeking sanctions relief from the new administration, Tehran has no reason to stoke tensions with the US in Iraq.
Also on Thursday, Stoltenberg said no decision has been made on whether or not NATO will withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1st, the deadline set by the US-Taliban peace deal.