Mattis pressing NATO for long-term stay in Iraq: Report

Mattis pressing NATO for long-term stay in Iraq: Report
Thu Feb 8, 2018 12:52:20

The United States is reportedly pressing NATO to set up a long-term mission in post-Daesh Iraq amid fears among the European members of the Western military alliance that they could be dragged into yet another Afghanistan-like quagmire.

Reuters cited five senior NATO diplomats as saying on Wednesday that US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis sent a letter to NATO headquarters in January, calling for a formal NATO mission to Iraq with a semi-permanent or permanent command to purportedly train Iraqi forces.

“The United States is pushing hard for a NATO role in Iraq, not in a combat role, but for a long-term assignment,” one senior NATO diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

“This looks suspiciously like another Afghanistan,” where the US-led Western military alliance has maintained a military presence since 2001, the diplomat said, adding, “Few allies want that.”

The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan under the guise of the war on terror. Some 17 years on, the Taliban militant group has only boosted its campaign of violence, targeting both Afghan civilians and security forces in bloody assaults.

More recently, Daesh terrorist group has established a foothold in eastern and northern Afghanistan and stepped up its attacks.

In his letter, Mattis suggested developing what he called military academies and a military doctrine for the Iraqi Defense Ministry, diplomats said.

NATO defense ministers are expected to discuss Washington’s request in Brussels next week, with a possible decision at a summit in July.

Diplomats said that NATO defense chiefs will provide ministers with a range of options for an Iraq mission, while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has discussed the issue with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael declined to comment whether Mattis had sent a letter to NATO, but said the US “administration continues to look for ways allies can do more to counter terrorist organizations.”

The plans for a NATO mission comes only after Iraqi armed forces, backed by popular forces, managed to rid their homeland of Daesh, the world’s most notorious terror group. They declared full victory against the Takfiri outfit late last year.

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