Vastavam web: The United States is renewing pressure on its European NATO allies to establish a long-term train-and-advise mission in Iraq, diplomats said, reviving a divisive issue for an alliance wary after a decade in Afghanistan.U.S. 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 train Iraqi forces, according to five senior NATO diplomats.
In his letter, Mattis left many details open but suggested developing military academies and a military doctrine for the Iraqi defence ministry, diplomats said. Other ideas cited by diplomats include bomb disposal training, maintenance of Soviet-era vehicles and medical training.“The United States is pushing hard for a NATO role in Iraq, not in a combat role, but for a long-term assignment,” said one senior NATO diplomat on condition of anonymity.“This looks suspiciously like another Afghanistan,” the diplomat said, referring to the long-running conflict where NATO is funding and training Afghan forces. “Few allies want that.”NATO defence chiefs will provide ministers with a range of options for an Iraq mission, while NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has discussed the issue with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who supports a mission, diplomats said.
The U.S. push is also part of President Donald Trump’s demand that the Western alliance go beyond its core task of defending its territory and help stem Islamic militancy.Then, U.S. officials had raised the possibility of NATO taking over the running of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, as it did of the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan in 2003.The United States sees NATO’s long experience in Afghanistan as putting it in an ideal position to help build up Iraqi forces after recapturing territory taken by Islamic State. The United States has more than 5,000 troops in Iraq.But European allies fear being pulled into another open-ended foreign assignment that is costly, unpopular at home and potentially dangerous.