NATO to consider bulking up Iraq mission

Ella Joyner
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg concedes NATO "could do more"

NATO defence ministers are to meet in Brussels to discuss boosting the alliance's training mission in Iraq after the United States said it should increase its presence in the Middle East.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised the mission's successes in building up Iraqi forces' ability to fight against Islamic State on Tuesday ahead of the meeting but said it "could do more".

NATO is expected to resume training carried out by its roughly 500 personnel in Iraq soon.

Some activities were frozen in January after regional hostilities flared up following the US assassination of a top Iranian general on Iraqi soil.

The defence ministers may also agree in principle to build up the operation further, according to diplomatic sources.

Some 200 NATO-country troops could be transferred from the US-led anti-Islamic State global coalition to the NATO mission in Iraq, NATO sources indicate.

US NATO ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison said on Tuesday this would satisfy demands from Washington.

Any such move would hinge on the consent of the Iraqi government.

The country's parliament voted last month to expel foreign troops in protest over the US killing.

US President Donald Trump told Stoltenberg in January he wants NATO to take on more responsibilities for shared defence goals in the region but has made no concrete demands.

On Thursday, talks at NATO's headquarters will turn to the alliance's mission in Afghanistan and the challenge arising from Russia's new missile systems.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is also to meet with the defence ministers, as is their Ukrainian counterpart Andriy Zagorodnyuk.