NATO countries to strengthen mission in Iraq

The last French soldier was killed on Friday morning by a barrage of Kalashnikovs in the Gossi region, near the border with Burkina Faso. Maxime Blasco was 34 years old and is the 52nd victim of the Paris war in Mali, which began in 2013 when the then-president François Hollande sent combat helicopters to repel the Islamist offensive towards the capital Bamako. Like most of his fellow soldiers who died in battle at the hands of African jihadists, Blasco was part of a military generation skilled in fighting in the desert sands. So much so that the French press calls the men of Operation Barkhane “children of the Sahel.”

In Mali, France has deployed over five thousand men who carry out almost daily attacks with drones and special forces in a region as large as Europe. By December French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision, the military will have to abandon the bases of Kidal, Tessalit, and Timbuktu, in the north of Mali, and by 2023 the number of French operating in the region will have to reduce by two thousand men. For Macron, France has already done its part and asks for the intervention of other European armies to control the borders with Mauritania, Libya, Algeria, Niger, and Burkina Faso.

Furthermore, since last year, the jihadist groups of Mali, free to move undisturbed because the state is absent, have begun to foster the flames of inter-ethnic conflicts, exacerbating the ancient feuds between farmers and ranchers, between Peul and Dogon.

Paris has therefore decided to reorganize its military presence on the ground thanks to a more restricted device and more connected to local armies, which mainly launches targeted attacks against the leaders of the jihad. A new strategy has already paid off: on 16 September, the French military killed Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, their “priority enemy” in the Sahel and founder of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.

Since 2011, Al-Sahrawi has been responsible for most of the bloodiest offensives in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Its end is also the demonstration that, albeit by reducing its troops, Paris is not willing to leave Mali nor the war against terrorism in the region. Especially since the EUTM Mali mission is now operational in the African country, made up of 700 soldiers from 25 European countries.

That is not the opinion of the prime minister of Bamako, Choguel Maiga, who yesterday in the United Nations tribune criticized Paris for having “let her country fall on deaf ears.” Maiga also said he had to fill the void that Paris leaves with the withdrawal of most of his troops. That adds to the new protest of thousands of protesters who every week in the capital reaffirm their support for the transitional authorities and ask for closer ties with Russia. In the background, there are controversies on the Malian authorities that have started with the Russian private security company Wagner to conclude a military collaboration contract.

News has circulated that the Bamako government is close to reaching a deal with Wagner to send a thousand Russian mercenaries in a contract worth over 10 million dollars a month. Accordingrevent the return of IS.”

According to the NATO Secretary General, at a meeting on February 12, the Alliance’s defense ministers decided that “we could fight terrorism even more successfully.”  Jens Stoltenberg noted that today “we need to do more first within the existing mandate of our mission in Iraq”: “But we are already holding consultations with the Iraqi government on expanding our mission. We just discussed this today.”

The NATO Secretary General also noted that all countries of the alliance supported the proposal that some operations carried out within the framework of the US-led international coalition against IS are transferred to a new format – under NATO control.

In fact, it is today about the North Atlantic Alliance replacing the United States as the leader of the international coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq.  Recall that earlier Donald Trump voiced a desire for NATO to play a more active role in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East region.  Obviously, the stated reformatting of the Iraqi NATO mission is a reaction to the expectations of the American president.

According to Jens Stoltenberg, “it’s premature to talk yet” about what kind of functionality NATO will take on in the international coalition.  Questions about the specific number of troops and the areas that will be taken over by the alliance will be discussed at a meeting of the Alliance’s defense ministers on Friday February 14, and then during a visit by NATO Secretary General to Munich, where Stoltenberg plans to meet with leaders of the international coalition against IS.

Jens Stoltenberg noted that reformatting the Iraqi mission of NATO and strengthening the role of the alliance in the international coalition against IS, will not require additional sanction from official Baghdad: “We are already in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government.”

“We want Iraqi security forces to be able to defend themselves and be able to prevent the return of the Islamic State,” said Jens Stoltenberg.  He noted that while the NATO training mission in Iraq has been suspended (this was done in mid-January, after the worsening of relations between the US and Iran), however, “it will resume as soon as possible.”  “Iraq is at the forefront of the fight against terrorism,” said the Secretary General of NATO. “The biggest victims in the fight against IS were made by the residents and security forces of Iraq.”

An important role in reformatting the role of NATO in the Middle East region, obviously, has to play the allied countries of the alliance, especially Jordan.  According to Jens Stoltenberg, “Jordan is a very close partner of NATO and a partner in the international coalition to combat IS”, with which there is a constant exchange of information through the special services and during joint special operations.To see more about arab politics news.



Roshan Amiri is an advocate for the truth. He believes that it's important to speak out and fight for what's right, no matter what the cost. Amiri has dedicated his life to fighting for social justice and creating a better future for all.

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