NATO Mission Iraq

  • Last updated: 01 Dec. 2023 13:28

NATO Mission Iraq (NMI) is a non-combat advisory and capacity-building mission that assists Iraq in building more sustainable, transparent, inclusive and effective armed forces and security institutions, so that Iraqis themselves are better able to stabilise their country, fight terrorism and prevent the return of ISIS/Daesh. The mission was launched at the NATO Summit in Brussels in July 2018, following a request from the government of Iraq, and established in October 2018.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg views NATO Training Camp Base-Iraq activities at Camp Besmaya, Iraq, March 5, 2018. Stoltenberg greeted NATO trainers and Iraqi troops while touring the facilities

 

  • NATO Mission Iraq (NMI) is a non-combat advisory and capacity-building mission, conducted in full respect of Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  • It was established in Baghdad in October 2018 and currently involves several hundred personnel from Allied and partner countries, including Australia and Invitee Sweden.
  • NMI coordinates with a wide range of other international stakeholders, including the Global Coalition Against Daesh, the European Union and the United Nations.
  • In February 2021, NATO Defence Ministers, and in August 2023 the North Atlantic Council, agreed to expand NMI at the request of the Iraqi government.

 

The aim and contours of the mission

NMI is designed to help strengthen Iraqi security institutions and forces so that they themselves can prevent the return of ISIS/Daesh, fight terrorism and stabilise their country.

The mission fully integrates civil and military personnel, and works closely with other international actors on the ground. NMI complements a broader international effort to help Iraq eradicate terrorism and promote stability. To achieve this, NATO advises relevant Iraqi defence and security officials in their Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior, Federal Police Command, Office of the National Security Advisor and Prime Minister’s National Operations Centre. The mission also advises Iraq’s professional military education institutions in the greater Baghdad area. Specific areas of focus include policy and strategy; force generation and development; resource management; Women, Peace and Security; leadership development; and good governance in the security sector. Furthermore, the mission integrates gender perspectives throughout its activities.

In February 2021, following a request by the Iraqi government, NATO Defence Ministers decided to increase the size of NATO Mission Iraq and to expand training activities to include more Iraqi security institutions, and areas beyond Baghdad. Subsequently, in August 2023, the North Atlantic Council – NATO’s principal political decision-making body – decided to extend the scope of NMI to include advisory and capacity-building activities in support of the Ministry of Interior and Federal Police Command. Any expansion of the mission will be incremental and done upon Iraqi request. All efforts of NMI are carried out with the consent of the Iraqi government and conducted in full respect of Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. NATO does not deploy its personnel alongside Iraqi forces during combat operations and it only trains members of the Iraqi security forces under direct and effective control of the government of Iraq.

NMI acts in coordination and cooperation with partners like the Global Coalition Against Daesh, the European Union and the United Nations.

In sum, NATO Mission Iraq:

  • Contributes to the fight against terrorism by helping Iraq strengthen its security institutions and armed forces so that they themselves are better able to fight terrorism, prevent the return of ISIS/Daesh and stabilise their country.
  • Advises the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior, Federal Police Command, the Office of the National Security Advisor, the Prime Minister’s National Operations Centre and national security education institutions to build more sustainable, transparent, inclusive and effective security institutions and structures.
  • Instructs on the rule of law, the law of armed conflict, countering corruption, the protection of civilians, children and armed conflict, and the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
  • Is a non-combat mission founded on partnership and inclusivity as well as on full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

 

Command of the mission

NATO Mission Iraq is commanded by Lieutenant General José Antonio Agüero Martinez (Spain), who assumed responsibility for this post on 24 May 2023.

NMI falls under the authority of Allied Joint Force Command (JFC) Naples, which is one of NATO’s two operational-level commands that stand ready to plan, conduct and sustain NATO operations of differing size and scope across the full spectrum of military response. In addition to managing operations from Naples or from the theatre of operation, JFC Naples also supports Allied Command Operations and NATO Headquarters in various functions such as training personnel and facilitating cooperation with partners.  

 

The evolution of NATO’s cooperation with Iraq

NMI is the most recent and largest iteration of a long-standing relationship between the Alliance and Iraq, providing expertise and best practice in the reform of security structures, defence institution building, and training and education from the entire Alliance and its partners from all over the world.

From 2004 to 2011, NATO conducted a relatively small but important support operation in Iraq that consisted of training, mentoring and assisting the Iraqi security forces. It was known as the NATO Training Mission in Iraq (NTM-I) and became part of the international effort to help Iraq establish effective and accountable security forces. All NATO Allies contributed to the training effort either in or outside of Iraq, through financial contributions or donations of equipment. In parallel and reinforcing this initiative, NATO also worked with the Iraqi government on a structured cooperation framework to develop the Alliance’s long-term relationship with Iraq.

In July 2015, in response to a request by the Iraqi government, NATO agreed to provide defence and related security capacity-building support. In April 2016, it began conducting a number of “train-the-trainer’’ courses in Jordan for Iraqis (more than 350 Iraqi security and military personnel were trained). Then, following a request from the Iraqi Prime Minister, at the Warsaw Summit in July 2016 NATO Leaders agreed to provide NATO training and capacity-building activities to Iraqi security and military forces within Iraq. In January 2017, NATO deployed a modest but scalable Core Team to Baghdad of eight civilian and military personnel, setting up NATO’s permanent presence in Iraq. Jordan-based training transferred to Iraq in February 2017. The Core Team coordinated all NATO assistance provided to Iraq in 2017-2018 and laid the foundation for the subsequent establishment in 2018 of the current NMI.

 

NMI commanders in chronological order
 

Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin (Canada) Nov 2018 - 26 Nov 2019
Maj. Gen. Jennie Carignan (Canada) 26 Nov 2019 - 24 Nov 2020
Lt. Gen. Per Olsen (Denmark) 24 Nov 2020 - 6 May 2021
Lt. Gen. Michael Lollesgaard (Denmark) 6 May 2021 - 10 May 2022
Lt. Gen. Giovanni Maria Iannucci (Italy) 10 May 2022 - 24 May 2023
Lt. Gen. José Antonio Agüero Martinez (Spain) 24 May 2023 - present