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Helping stabilise Iraq

Daniel Speckhard explains how NATO has set about training Iraqi security forces.

SACEUR visit: General James L. Jones travelled to Iraq days after the NATO Mission had been established (© SHAPE)

One of the most far-reaching developments at NATO's Istanbul Summit was the decision to assist with the training of Iraqi security forces. This landmark decision, which has already been put into effect on the ground, followed the formal transfer of sovereignty in Iraq to an interim Iraqi government on the morning of the first day of the Summit.

All NATO nations are acutely aware of the dangers of ongoing instability in Iraq and of the importance of helping the new Iraqi authorities acquire the means to take control of the security situation themselves. In the words of NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at Istanbul: "By training Iraqi security forces and helping to develop their security institutions, we will bring forward the day that foreign forces are no longer required. That is a goal we all share."

The decision to assist with the training of Iraqi security forces followed adoption of a UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) and a formal request from the Iraqi interim government. UNSCR 1546, which asks member states as well as international and regional organisations to contribute assistance, was unanimously adopted on 8 June. Two weeks later, Iraq's then Prime Minister designate, Ayad Allawi, wrote to the NATO Secretary General requesting "the urgent help of the international community and especially NATO in the crucial areas of training inside Iraq, equipping and other forms of technical assistance as the government of Iraq deems appropriate to empower our nascent security institutions to defeat the terrorist threat and reduce reliance on foreign forces". This request was subsequently repeated by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari when he visited NATO Headquarters on 13 July following the transfer of sovereignty.

NATO response

An advance NATO team from Joint Force Command Naples in Italy left for Iraq after the Istanbul Summit. On the basis of the team's report, the North Atlantic Council decided on 30 July to establish a NATO Training Implementation Mission in Iraq. The Mission was initially commanded by Major-General Carel Hilderink of the Netherlands and comprised some 50 commissioned and non-commissioned officers from the two NATO Supreme Commands – Allied Command Operations, in Mons, Belgium, and Allied Command Transformation, in Norfolk, Virginia, in the United States. An advance team arrived in Iraq on 7 August and the core a week later. Supreme Allied Commander Europe General James L. Jones made a first visit to Iraq days after the Mission had been established.

Early tasks of the NATO Training Implementation Mission in Iraq, since renamed simply the NATO Training Mission in Iraq, included establishing liaison arrangements with the Iraqi interim government and the Multinational Force and identifying the best methods for conducting training both inside and outside Iraq. The Mission focused its initial efforts on working with the Iraqi authorities to develop their security structures with particular emphasis on the Defence Ministry and the Military Headquarters and preparing a report with more detailed proposals for NATO training, advice and cooperation. By August, the Mission had already begun mentoring Iraqi personnel at the Military Headquarters.

All NATO nations are acutely aware of the dangers of ongoing instability in Iraq

On 15 September, General Jones presented the Mission's report to the North Atlantic Council and within a week the Council decided to support the establishment of an Iraqi Training, Education and Doctrine Centre outside Baghdad. This Centre will train senior members of the Iraqi security forces in all functional areas. It will focus on leadership training and will help to build nationwide, multi-ethnic security institutions.

The North Atlantic Council approved a concept of operations for the expanded mission, which defines the stages of NATO's involvement in the training of Iraqi security forces. The first stage, which has already begun, includes establishing in-country command and control mechanisms, and enhancing training and mentoring of members of the Iraqi security forces. The second stage will concentrate on providing assistance to the Iraqi Security Forces in order to set up the Training, Education and Doctrine Centre, which, in turn, will provide leadership training to develop middle and senior management.

Close coordination between the Multinational Force and the NATO Training Mission in Iraq is critical. This is because the Multinational Force is the main security provider on the ground and, as such, will provide area protection for NATO personnel. Moreover, the Multinational Force was already engaged in the training of Iraqi security forces through its own Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq. To ensure the best possible cooperation, US Lieutenant-General David H. Petraeus was assigned command of both missions. The NATO Training Mission in Iraq, nevertheless, remains a distinct mission under the political control of the North Atlantic Council.

Nature of the challenge

The scale of the task facing the NATO Mission should not be underestimated and the electoral timetable adds further urgency. The Iraqis whom NATO is training are answerable to the country's interim government, whose immediate goal is to deploy Iraqi security forces capable of maintaining a stable and secure environment ahead of legislative elections that are scheduled to take place by January 2005 at the latest.

All Allies have the opportunity to contribute to the NATO Training Mission in Iraq and, if they decide to become involved, to choose whether they wish to do so inside or outside the country. Training outside Iraq may take place at Allies' national training academies, at NATO schools or in appropriate facilities in neighbouring countries. The first Iraqis to attend a NATO training programme at a NATO school, a group of 19 key leaders, arrived at the NATO Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway, at the beginning of November.

The NATO Training Mission in Iraq has also taken responsibility for coordinating national offers of training and equipment donation through the creation of a NATO Training and Equipment Coordination Group at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. This is essential, since lack of coordination of national efforts and/or differing approaches towards training and equipment procurement risk undermining the process. Moreover, many countries initially became involved in training Iraqi forces on a bilateral basis and others have expressed their readiness to do so in the near future.

Read more: Iraq, Istanbul Summit
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