NATO willing to expand Iraqi training mission to meet Trump demand

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Senior officials and diplomats on Tuesday said NATO is considering an increase to its training mission in Iraq to relieve the burden on the U.S. led coalition against Islamic State.

NATO and the coalition have non-combat `train-and-advise’ missions, which aim to develop Iraqi security forces but both are suspended over fears for regional stability after a U.S. drone strike killed a top Iranian commander in Baghdad on Jan. 3.

After the killing, U.S. President Donald Trump called on NATO, founded in 1949 to contain a military threat from the Soviet Union to do more in the Middle East but he has not specified publicly what that might entail.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO defense ministers including U.S. Secretary of State Mark Esper will discuss options for non-combat operations in the Middle East at a two-day meeting in Brussels starting on Wednesday.

“We are discussing what more NATO can do,’’ he told reporters, adding that the alliance would first seek to restart the training with the Iraqi government’s blessing.

U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said the alliance was also seeking military advice, both from NATO and Iraq, on how to increase the mission, but gave no details.

“I think it will definitely be the answer to what President Trump has requested,’’ she said.

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