Relations with Iraq
NATO and Iraq are engaged in political dialogue and practical cooperation aimed at developing the capacity of Iraq’s security forces, its defence and security institutions, and its national defence academies. Following the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and the restoration of sovereign control of all its territory in late 2017, NATO scaled up its training and advising efforts in Iraq at the government’s request. In February 2021, NATO defence ministers agreed to expand the NATO Mission in Iraq, as requested by the Iraqi government.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister of Iraq Mr Fuad Mohammad Hussein (September 2020)
- Iraq is one of a range of countries beyond the Euro-Atlantic area – often referred to as "partners across the globe" – with which NATO is developing relations.
- Relations with Iraq build on cooperation that developed through the NATO Training Mission in Iraq (NTM-I) from 2004 to 2011, during which 15,000 Iraqi officers were trained.
- In 2011, NATO agreed to grant Iraq partner status and a jointly agreed Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme was signed in September 2012, providing a framework for political dialogue and tailored cooperation.
- At the 2014 NATO Summit, Allied leaders expressed readiness to consider undertaking measures with Iraq in the framework of NATO’s Defence and Related Security Capacity Building (DCB) Initiative.
- At the request of the Iraqi government, NATO agreed in July 2015 on a package of defence capacity building measures to provide assistance in a number of priority areas where NATO could provide added value. The first phase of out-of-country training was launched in April 2016, with a ‘train-the-trainers’ course provided to 350 Iraqi officers in Jordan.
- At the 2016 NATO Summit, Allied leaders decided to provide direct support to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS/Daesh with NATO AWACS surveillance aircraft. They also agreed to provide a training and capacity-building effort within Iraq, at the request of the Iraqi government.
- In January 2017, a small Core Team of NATO civilian and military personnel was established in Baghdad to coordinate training and capacity-building activities in support of Iraqi security forces and institutions. Mobile security sector reform teams began to travel to Iraq to conduct training.
- In May 2017, NATO became a full member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS/Daesh, in which all individual Allies were already taking part.
- NATO commended Iraqi security forces for defeating ISIS in Iraq and restoring sovereign control over all of its territory in late 2017.
- At the Brussels Summit in July 2018, Allied leaders launched a non-combat training and capacity-building mission in Iraq, in response to a request from the government of Iraq to scale up training and advising efforts. NATO Mission Iraq is providing additional support to Iraq’s efforts to stabilise the country and fight terrorism.
- NATO Allies remain committed to their partnership with Iraq. Due to the security situation and the COVID-19 pandemic, NATO Mission Iraq had to temporarily suspend some activities and relocate some personnel in spring 2020. However, the mission has now rebuilt its capacity in Baghdad and – in coordination with the Iraqi government and the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS – is planning for NATO’s future expanded engagement.
- In February 2021, in line with a request from the Iraqi government, Allied 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.
Cooperation between NATO and Iraq is based on principles of respect for sovereignty, international law, joint ownership and mutual benefit. The partnership serves to anchor and bolster Iraq’s capacity to contribute constructively to regional security. It reflects NATO’s long-standing commitment to the development of Iraq’s capabilities to address shared challenges and threats.
NATO first began its relationship with Iraq by establishing a NATO Training Mission-Iraq (NTM-I) in 2004, at the request of the interim Iraqi government and in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546, to help Iraq create effective armed forces by providing training and mentoring and donating equipment. From 2004 to 2011, NTM-I trained over 5,000 military personnel and over 10,000 police personnel in Iraq. Nearly 2,000 courses were provided in Allied countries. Over Euro 115 million worth of military equipment was donated and Euro 17.5 million in trust fund donations were provided from 26 Allies.
In April 2011, NATO agreed to grant Iraq partner status. Through a jointly agreed Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme (IPCP), NATO and Iraq undertook further efforts to develop the capacity of Iraq’s security and defence institutions. This programme provides a framework for political dialogue and for training cooperation in areas such as counter-terrorism, crisis management and critical energy infrastructure protection.
At the NATO Summit in Wales in 2014, Allied leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the NATO-Iraq partnership and expressed readiness to consider measures in the framework of NATO’s Defence and Related Security Capacity Building (DCB) Initiative. This initiative was launched to strengthen the Alliance’s contribution to international security, stability and conflict prevention. It is demand-driven and offers partners – at their request – assistance beyond what is available under existing programmes, building on NATO's extensive expertise in providing advice, assistance, support, training, education and mentoring activities in the defence and related security sector.
Following a request from Prime Minister Al-Abadi, a DCB package for Iraq was agreed by Allies in July 2015. It included assistance measures in the areas of countering improvised explosive devices (C-IED), explosive ordnance disposal and demining; military medicine and medical assistance; advice on security sector reform; civil-military planning support to operations; civil emergency planning and preparedness; cyber defence; and military training.
In 2016, 350 Iraqi officers were trained at the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center in Jordan in the immediate priority areas of C-IED, military medicine and civil-military planning. Beginning with mobile expert team visits to Iraq in February 2016, NATO has also provided advice to Iraqi authorities on security sector reform.
At the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July 2016, Allied leaders agreed to provide a training and capacity-building effort within Iraq, alongside the ongoing training in Jordan. A NATO Core Team was deployed to Baghdad and in-country training has been ongoing since January 2017. Key counterparts for NATO in Baghdad are the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Interior, the Counter-Terrorism Service and the Office of the National Security Advisor.
The focus of NATO’s efforts in Iraq is on areas agreed upon with the Iraqi authorities – tailored to the needs of the Iraqi security forces and institutions – and where NATO can provide added value. NATO’s training and capacity-building activities do not have a fixed duration. NATO Allies keep progress under regular review, in close consultation with the Iraqi authorities.
On the ground, NATO coordinates its efforts with a wide range of international actors – including the United Nations, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS/Daesh, the European Union and individual countries – to ensure complementarity with the activities of other members of the international community in support of Iraq’s long-term stability.
NATO Mission Iraq (NMI) was formally launched at the Brussels Summit in July 2018. Building on NATO’s earlier work with Iraq, NMI is designed to help strengthen Iraqi security forces and institutions so that they can prevent the return of ISIS, fight terrorism and stabilise their country. It involves several hundred trainers, advisers and support staff from Allied and partner countries, including Australia and Invitee Sweden. NMI only trains members of the Iraqi security forces under direct control of the government of Iraq. The mission provides advice and training beyond the greater Baghdad area, and does not deploy personnel alongside Iraqi forces during combat operations.
In October 2020, NATO Allies agreed to expand NMI on the request of the Iraqi government. Following up on this, in February 2021, 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. Any troop increases would be based on requirements and consent from the Iraqi authorities, and conditions on the ground; and would occur incrementally over time.
Milestones in relations
22 June 2004: Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ilyad Allawi sends letter to NATO Secretary General requesting NATO support to his government through training and other forms of technical assistance.
28 June 2004: At NATO Summit in Istanbul, NATO heads of state and government agree to assist Iraq with training of its security forces on the day that sovereignty was formally transferred to an interim Iraqi government.
30 July 2004: NATO Training Implementation Mission is established to identify best methods for conducting training inside and outside Iraq. First elements deployed to Baghdad on 7 August followed by a team of 50 officers.
22 September 2004: North Atlantic Council agrees to expand NATO’s assistance to Iraq to include a NATO-supported Iraqi Training, Education and Doctrine Centre in Iraq.
November 2004: NATO military authorities prepare a detailed concept of operations for the expanded assistance, including rules of engagement for force protection.
9 December 2004: NATO foreign ministers authorise Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) to start next stage of the mission.
16 December 2004: SACEUR gives activation order paving the way to deploy an additional 300 trainers and support staff. The activation order also changes the mission name to NATO Training Mission-Iraq (NTM-I).
End 2004: NTM-I is now established, at the request of the Iraqi interim government and in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546, to help Iraq create effective armed forces by providing training and mentoring, and donating equipment.
February 2005: NTM-I is fully staffed and funded.
2006: NATO Summit in Riga, Allied leaders agree to develop niche training options within the mandate of NTM-I.
2007: Allies decide to extend their training assistance to Iraq by including gendarmerie-type training of the federal police to bridge the gap between routine police work and military operations.
December 2008: NATO expands NTM-I to include navy and air force leadership training, defence reform, defence institution building and small arms and light weapons accountability, at the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki.
5 October 2010: In response to Iraqi Minister of Interior Bolani’s request, Italy announces its intention to provide specialised training in the area of oil policing to the Government of Iraq and as part of NTM-I.
April 2011: Allies agree to grant Iraq partner status.
31 December 2011: NTM-I is discontinued due to the lack of an agreement on the legal status of NATO troops operating in the country.
May 2012: Iraq officially submits its draft Individual Partnership Cooperation Programme (IPCP) to NATO.
June 2012: A temporary one-year NATO Transition Cell opens in Baghdad to ensure smooth transition from NTM-I to regular partnership programme and to assist the Iraqi government in establishing inter-agency mechanism to determine what capabilities the country needs to develop.
24 September 2012: NATO-Iraq IPCP is signed, focusing mainly on education and training, response to terrorism, countering improvised explosive devices, explosive ordnance disposal, and defence institution building.
31 July 2015: Following a request of the Iraqi government for assistance through the Defence and Related Security Capacity Building (DCB) Initiative, NATO Allies agree on DCB package, based on Iraqi requirements.
1 March 2016: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets President Fouad Massoum and Prime Minister Al-Abadi during his first official visit to Iraq. He commends the success of Iraqi forces in pushing ISIS/Daesh back and welcomes the government’s ongoing efforts to build confidence across Iraq’s different communities, which is vital for the country’s long-term stability.
April 2016: Training for Iraqi security forces under DCB Initiative is launched in Jordan, with 350 Iraqi officers being trained between April and December 2016.
19 May 2016: NATO foreign ministers agree that NATO should do more to project stability beyond the Alliance’s borders by training local forces to build their capacity to secure their own territory and push back against extremist groups.
July 2016: At NATO Summit in Warsaw, Allied leaders respond positively to a request from Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Abadi, agreeing to start training and advising Iraqi security forces and institutions within Iraq, alongside training of Iraqi officers and non-commissioned officers out of the country.
July 2016: Also at Warsaw, Allied leaders decide to provide direct support to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS/Daesh with NATO AWACS surveillance aircraft.
18 October 2016: Iraqi Foreign Minister Dr Ibrahim Al-Jaafari visits NATO Headquarters for talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the Alliance’s support to Iraq as well as political and security developments, including the ongoing fight to liberate Mosul.
25 May 2017: NATO joins Global Coalition to defeat ISIS/Daesh.
January 2017: NATO Core Team is deployed to Baghdad to coordinate in-country training and capacity-building activities.
November 2017: Iraqi government announces victory against terrorist ISIS and regains control of its territory, liberating more than 7.5 million people from Daesh oppression.
22 January 2018: US Secretary of Defense James Mattis sends letter of request, on behalf of Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS/Daesh, for NATO to scale up current training and advising activities in Iraq, with the aim to transition its activities to a mission by the NATO Summit in Brussels in July 2018.
February 2018: The Iraq Reconstruction conference in Kuwait is attended by 70 countries and international organisations as well as 2,000 private sector companies, mobilising nearly USD 300 million to support reconstruction.
February 2018: At request of Iraqi government and Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS/Daesh, NATO defence ministers agree to start planning for a NATO mission in Iraq to make current training efforts more sustainable.
5 March 2018: During his second official visit to Iraq, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets Iraqi President and Prime Minister and visits NATO’s training facilities in Besmaya.
26 April 2018: North Atlantic Council approves Concept of Operations for a NATO mission in Iraq.
22 June 2018: North Atlantic Council approves Operations Plan for NATO Mission Iraq.
11 July 2018: At the Brussels Summit, Allied leaders launch a non-combat training and capacity-building mission in Iraq. NATO Mission Iraq will provide additional support to Iraq’s efforts to stabilise the country and fight terrorism.
October 2020: At request of Iraqi government, NATO defence ministers agree to start planning for expanding NATO Mission Iraq.
February 2021: NATO defence ministers decide to increase the size of NATO Mission Iraq and to expand training activities. Any troop increases would be based on requirements and consent from the Iraqi authorities, and conditions on the ground; and would occur incrementally over time.