In a letter sent to the NATO Secretary General on 22 June 2004, the interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ilyad Allawi requested NATO support to his government through training and other forms of technical assistance.
At their Summit meeting in Istanbul on 28 June 2004 - the day that sovereignty was formally transferred to an Interim Iraqi Government - NATO leaders agreed to assist Iraq with the training of its security forces and encouraged member countries to contribute.
The NATO Training Implementation Mission
A Training Implementation Mission was established on 30 July 2004. Its goal was to identify the best methods for conducting training both inside and outside the country. In addition, the mission immediately began training selected Iraqi headquarters personnel in Iraq.
The first elements of the mission deployed on 7 August, followed by a team of about 50 officers led by Major General Carel Hilderink of the Netherlands.
Expanding NATO's assistance
On 22 September 2004, based on the mission's recommendations, the North Atlantic Council agreed to expand NATO's assistance, including establishing a NATO-supported Iraqi Training, Education and Doctrine Centre in Iraq.
In November 2004, NATO's military authorities prepared a detailed concept of operations for the expanded assistance, including the rules of engagement for force protection.
On 9 December 2004, NATO Foreign Ministers authorised the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) to start the next stage of the mission.
The activation order for this next stage was given by SACEUR on 16 December 2004. It paved the way for the deployment of 300 additional staff, including trainers and support staff, and a significant increase in the existing training and mentoring given to mid- and senior-level personnel from the Iraqi Security Forces.
It also changed the mission’s name from NATO Training Implementation Mission to NATO Training Mission-Iraq.
By February 2005, the new mission was fully staffed and funded.
Niche training options
At the summit meeting in Riga, November 2006, heads of state and government agreed to develop niche training options within the mandate of the NTM-I on the request of the Iraqi Prime Minister. A few months later, training was extended to include gendarmerie-type training of the national police.
In December 2008, the mission was expanded to other areas. These areas included navy and air force leadership training, police training, defence reform, defence institution-building and standardised officer education and training. In 2010, NTM-I expanded once again, with developments within the Training, Education Doctrine Advisory Division and, more specifically, the Officer Education and Training Directorate, where greater interaction and support were developed between trainers and Iraqi participants.
In addition, in response to Minister of Interior Bolani’s request to the Alliance of 8 September 2010, Italy announced its intention on 5 October 2010 to provide specialized training in the area of oil policing to the Government of Iraq. The training constituted an important contribution to the NATO Training Mission Iraq and the Alliance training support activities with the Government of Iraq.
Legal status of NTM-I personnel in Iraq
On 26 July 2009, NATO and the Government of the Republic of Iraq signed an agreement regarding the training of Iraqi Security Forces (LTA). This agreement provided legal protection for NATO to continue with its training mission until the end of 2011. Extension of this mandate did not prove possible so the NTM-I was permanently withdrawn from Iraq on 31 December 2011. However, NATO remains committed to developing a long-term relationship with Iraq through its structured cooperation framework. Following the closure of NTM-I, a NATO Transition Cell was set up in order to bridge from an operational training mission to a sustained partnership. This Transition Cell operated for one year, from June 2012 until end May 2013.
Transition from NTM-I to an enduring partnership
NATO’s commitment to developing a long-term relationship with Iraq materialised in the decision to grant the country partner status in April 2011. Following the closure of NTM-I, a NATO Transition Cell was set up in order to bridge from an operational training mission to a sustained partnership. And a first step was taken in May 2012, when Iraq officially submitted a draft Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme. This programme aims to provide a framework for regular dialogue and training cooperation in areas such as the fight against terrorism, cross-border organised crime and critical energy infrastructure protection.