NATO’s assistance to Iraq (2004-2011)

  • Last updated: 01 Sep. 2022 14:08

The Alliance demonstrated its commitment to helping Iraq create effective armed forces and, ultimately, provide for its own security by establishing the NATO Training Mission-Iraq (NTM-I) in 2004. It was withdrawn from Iraq on 31 December 2011 when the mandate of the mission expired and agreement could not be reached on the legal status of NATO troops operating in the country.


  • The NATO Training Mission-Iraq or NTM-I was established in 2004 to help Iraq create effective armed forces.
  • It was set up at the request of the Iraqi Interim Government in accordance with UNSCR 1546.
  • NTM-I focused on training and mentoring, and on equipment donation and coordination.
  • NTM-I trained over 5,000 military personnel and over 10,000 police personnel in Iraq.
  • The mission was discontinued in 2011 because there was no longer any agreement on the legal status of NATO troops operating in the country.


The NTM-I was set up in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 1546 and at the request of the Iraqi Interim Government. It was not a combat mission. Its operational emphasis was on training and mentoring, and on equipment donation and coordination through the NATO Training and Equipment Co-ordination Group. From 2004 to 2011, it trained over 5,000 military personnel and over 10,000 police personnel in Iraq. Nearly 2,000 courses were provided in Allied countries and over 115 million euro’s worth of military equipment and a total of over 17.5 million euros in trust fund donations from 26 Allies for training and education at NATO facilities.

The aim of NTM-I was to help Iraq develop a democratically-led and enduring security sector. In parallel and reinforcing the NTM-I initiative, NATO and the Iraqi government established a structured cooperation framework to develop the Alliance’s long-term partnership with Iraq.

  • The aim and contours of the mission

    NATO helped the Iraqi government build the capability to ensure, by its own means, the security needs of the Iraqi people. It did not have a direct role in the international stabilisation force that was in Iraq from May 2003 until 31 December 2011 (the US-led combat mission “Operation Iraqi Freedom” was succeeded by “Operation New Dawn” in September 2010).

    Operationally, NTM-I specialised at the strategic level with the training of mid- to senior-level officers. By providing mentoring, advice and instruction support through in- and out-of-country training and the coordination of deliveries of donated military equipment, NTM-I made a tangible contribution to the rebuilding of military leadership in Iraq and the development of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).

    In 2007, Allies decided to extend their training assistance to Iraq by including gendarmerie-type training of the federal police in order to bridge the gap between routine police work and military operations. In December 2008, on the request of Prime Minister Al-Maliki, NATO expanded the Mission to other areas including navy and air force leadership training, defence reform, defence institution building, and small arms and light weapons accountability.

    NTM-I delivered its training, advice and mentoring support in a number of different settings. Over time, over a dozen member countries and one partner country contributed to the training effort either in or outside Iraq, through financial contributions or donations of equipment.

    In-country training and coordinating

    • The Strategic Security Advisor and Mentoring Division
      The Strategic Security Advisor and Mentoring Division within NTM-I consisted of three mobile teams of advisors who worked in close cooperation with the Iraqi leadership in the Prime Minister’s National Operation Centre, the Minister of Defence’s Joint Operations Centre, and the Minister of Interior’s National Command Centre. Through intensive training programmes and daily mentoring support NATO helped the Iraqis to achieve Full Operational Capability in the three operations centres.
    • The NATO Training, Education and Doctrine Advisory Division
      The National Defence University is the overarching institution under which Iraqi Officer Education and Training (OET) is managed. A NATO advisory mentoring team, within the NATO Training, Education and Doctrine Advisory Division, assisted the Iraqi Ministry of Defence with the development of a three-year degree course at the military academy at Ar Rustamiyah and a War College to compliment the Joint Staff College for senior security officials. It focused on the training of middle and senior-level personnel so as to help develop an officer corps trained in modern military leadership skills. It also aimed to introduce values that are in keeping with democratically-controlled armed forces.
    • The National Defence College
      The North Atlantic Council agreed to support the establishment of the Iraqi National Defence College on 22 September 2004 and it was officially opened on 27 September 2005. In 2010, NTM-I personnel advised and assisted the Iraqi Ministry of Defence with the development of syllabi and lectures.
    • The Defence Language Institute (DLI) and Defence and Strategic Studies Institute (DSSI)
      Located in Baghdad, DLI teaches civilian and military officials English. It is attached to the National Defence College. NATO played a key role in its establishment by advising on the course curriculum and assisting in the acquisition of its facilities, computers and furniture. NTM-I advisors also assisted Iraqis in the DSSI with the establishment of a digital military library capability.
    • The Armed Forces Training and Education Branch
      The Armed Forces Training and Education Branch is part of the on-going standardisation of educational facilities at Ar Rustamiyah. Through this branch, NATO personnel developed and assisted the Non-commissioned Officer and Battle Staff Training courses.

    Out-of-country training

    • NATO training schools
      NTM-I also facilitated training outside Iraq at NATO education and training facilities and national Centres of Excellence throughout NATO member countries. In order to allow an increasing number of Iraqi personnel to take part in specialised training outside of Iraq, NATO supported the establishment of the Defence Language Institute mentioned above.
    • The NATO Training and Equipment Coordination Group
      This group, under the control of Allied Command Transformation, was established at NATO HQ on 8 October 2004. Based in Brussels, it worked with the Training and Education Synchronization Cell in Baghdad to coordinate the requirements of the Iraqi government for out-of-country training and equipment that was offered by NATO as a whole or by individual NATO member countries.
    • Coordinating bilateral assistance
      Additionally, NATO helped to coordinate bilateral assistance provided by individual NATO member countries in the form of additional training, equipment donations and technical assistance both in and outside Iraq.
  • Command of the mission

    The NATO mission was a distinct mission, under the political control of NATO’s North Atlantic Council. Nonetheless, NATO’s training missions were coordinated with Iraqi authorities and the US Forces - Iraq (USF-I).

    The NTM-I commander, who commanded the NATO effort in the country, was dual-hatted: he was also United States Forces Iraq (USF-I) Deputy Commanding General for Advising and Training (A&T). He reported to the Supreme Allied Commander Operations at SHAPE, Belgium for all matters related to NATO efforts in the country. The latter then reported, via the Chairman of the Military Committee, to the North Atlantic Council.

    US Forces - Iraq provided a secure environment for the protection of NATO forces in Iraq. The NATO chain of command had responsibility for close area force protection for all NATO personnel deployed to Iraq or the region.

  • The evolution of NATO’s training effort in Iraq

    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.