Iraq Weighs Larger NATO Role To Replace US-led Coalition

Iraq weighs larger NATO role to replace US-led coalition

Baghdad, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 29th Jan, 2020 ) :Iraq is considering a larger role for NATO at the expense of the US-led coalition, Iraqi and Western officials told AFP, after an American drone strike on Baghdad that sparked outrage.

The January 3 strike which killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and a top Iraqi commander was condemned by Baghdad as a breach of its sovereignty and of the coalition's mandate.

Iraq's parliament swiftly voted in favour of ousting all foreign troops -- including the 5,200 US soldiers.

Fearing a swift withdrawal could be destabilising, Iraqi and Western officials have begun discussing changes to the coalition's role, according to local officials and diplomats.

"We are talking to the coalition countries -- France, the UK, Canada -- about a range of scenarios," said Abdelkarim Khalaf, spokesman for Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi.

"The essential thing is that no combat troops are present and our airspace is no longer used," Khalaf told AFP.

Two Western officials said the premier had asked them to "draft some options" on a path forward for the coalition.

These options had been submitted directly to the premier.

They included a coalition not led by the US, an amended mandate with limits to coalition activities or an expanded role for NATO's separate mission in Iraq.

The Canadian-led NATO mission was set up in 2018 and has around 500 forces training Iraqi troops, although its operations have also been on hold since the US strike.

By comparison, the US-led coalition established in 2014 has up to 8,000 troops in Iraq, the bulk of them American forces.

Khalaf told AFP that a larger role for NATO was one of several options being discussed.

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