Albanian troops will set foot in Iraq again, nine years after their last operations there ceased, as part of global anti-ISIS voluntary operations in response to a request of the US government.
The initiative was announced on Monday by the Albanian Defence Minister, Mimi Kodheli, during a hearing with a parliamentary commission.
"We are going to bring to parliament very soon a draft law to open the way to the presence of [Albanian] soldiers in the global coalition against ISIS," she said.
The draft law is expected to be sent to parliament in the next two weeks with details of the exact number of soldiers that are going to land in Iraqi bases and how they will help the war against ISIS. It also detail the exact mission that Albanian troops will conduct on Iraqi soil.
"This is not a NATO mission and it needs a special law. We are talking about a voluntary mission in which Albania has helped already in different ways, but not with a military presence," Kodheli explained to the commission.
Albania was one of the first countries to join the Global Coalition against Daesh/ISIS that was formed in September 2014. Led by the US, it counts a total of 68 countries.
Besides the military campaign in Iraq and Syria, the coalition is committed to tackling ISIS's financing and economic infrastructure, preventing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters across borders, and also supporting the restoration of public services to areas liberated from ISIS rule. The coalition is also fighting ISIS's propaganda narrative.
As part of the coalition, in 2014 Albania donated four tranches of weapons and ammunitions to Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to support their fight against ISIS.
Albania has also committed itself to countering radical Islamism at home. In 2015, a national Strategy for Countering Violent Extremism was adopted.
The Balkan country, which joined NATO in 2009, has experience in working in the conflict field in Iraq and Afghanistan under alliance-led coalitions.
In July 2002, a contingent of its armed forces became part of the NATO-commanded International Security Assistance Force, ISAF in Kabul and continued to gradually increase its role in diverse tasks, almost in all regional commands in Afghanistan. Some 2,944 military personnel participated in this operation.
In April 2003, the Albanian army was engaged as part of coalition forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom in Mosul and Baghdad. Some 1,377 military personnel were engaged in Iraq until 2008 when the troops were withdrawn.