NATO staying in Iraq based on Baghdad request: Stoltenberg

Head of the NATO Jens Stoltenberg said the Western military alliance will stay in Iraq | army.mil

Head of the NATO Jens Stoltenberg said the Western military alliance will stay in Iraq at its government’s request “as long as necessary” just days after the Iraq’s lawmakers called for the withdrawal of foreign troops following the defeat of Daesh terrorists, sources said.

“We are here because Iraq wants us to be here, we are not here without the consent and without an invitation from Iraq,” Stoltenberg told AFP on Monday.

During a surprise visit to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, Stoltenberg said the alliance had received a “written request” from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to keep the troops on Iraqi soil.

“We should not stay longer than necessary, we will train the trainers as long as necessary to make sure IS (Daesh) does not reemerge,” Stoltenberg added.

On Thursday, the Iraqi Parliament issued statement, calling on the government “to draw up a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops.”

A day later, Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said the country would under no circumstances permit the United States to build permanent military bases on its soil, which would be a violation of its sovereignty. In September 2014, the US and its allies, including those from NATO, launched an aerial campaign against purported Daesh targets in Iraq. Both the coalition and NATO forces, including around 9,000 Americans, retain their presence in Iraq.

The airstrikes that were carried out by these troops did little to help the Iraqi forces and led, instead, to heavy civilian casualties and damage to the country’s infrastructure.

The Iraqi army, backed by popular volunteer forces, managed last December to rid their homeland of the Takfiri Daesh outfit, which had captured large swathes of land in Iraq’s north and West at the onset of its campaign of terror back in 2014.