Canadians play key roles in NATO Mission Iraq

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Iraq has the unenviable task of rebuilding their nation after years of waging war against Daesh and at the same time addressing the challenges that could lead to resurgence. Strong institutions in a well-functioning bureaucracy are key elements to transitioning towards a stable, transparent and peaceful Iraq.

Established in Baghdad in October 2018, NATO Mission Iraq (NMI) is well on its way to making a significant impact in these areas. Led by Canadian Major-General Dany Fortin, NATO Mission Iraq is comprised of several hundred military and civilian personnel from NATO countries and three non-NATO partners. Canada makes up close to half of the mission, as it fills key roles in leadership, mobile force protection, rotary-wing support, headquarters staff, advisors and trainers.

NATO Mission Iraq is quickly evolving from a concept to an influential member of the international community in support of Iraq, and Canadian troops are playing an essential role in making this happen.” said Major-General Fortin, Commander NATO Mission Iraq.

NMI’s objective is clear – help build a sustainable, effective, transparent and inclusive defense/security sector within Iraq. The Mission is succeeding thanks to a clear understanding from the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi Ministry of Defence that the enduring defeat of terrorist groups requires some of the specialized education and training NATO can provide.

NMI advisory activities are conducted in Baghdad, including in the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, the Office of the National Security Advisor, and relevant national security institutions. NMI training activities are carried out at the Iraqi military schools in the Baghdad area, Taji and Besmayah. Simultaneously having NMI members working in the schools and with the most senior levels in the Iraq security sector, uniquely positions the mission to help connect strategic goals to tactical realities. This is a key enabler in helping the Government of Iraq create sustainable solutions to challenges faced by individual schools and institutions.

Training only members of the Iraqi Security Forces under direct and effective control of the Government of Iraq, NMI works with Iraqis to complete comprehensive gap analyses in key areas in instructor capability, training quality, curriculum and infrastructure at the military education institutions and training schools. These findings are analyzed and prioritized, and the resulting NMI training and advice is tailored specifically to meet their needs.

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NMI works in close coordination with the Global Coalition to defeat Daesh (including the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve), the United Nations, the European Union and individual countries in their efforts to support Iraq. The Mission is clearly demonstrating the value of NATO’s intellectual offer and leveraging the collective experience of NATO members rather than focusing on providing equipment or funds for infrastructure improvements.

One of NMI’s main focuses is training instructors so Iraq can move from foreigners training Iraqis to Iraqis training Iraqis. Some NMI Embedded Training and Advisory Teams have already been providing train-the-trainer courses and are laying the foundations for Iraqi institutions to make the move to self-reliant and sustainable education and training. Mobile Training Teams from Canada, Spain and Poland have also been fully engaged in course delivery. In addition, following two basic instructor courses delivered by NMI staff, the Iraqi Military Medical School will soon run an Iraqi-led basic instructor trainer course now supported by, rather than led by, NMI.

Canadian Contribution

In addition to providing full-time courses, NMI has provided several schools with briefings and workshops on topics such as Women Peace and Security, gender perspectives, International Humanitarian Law and Children and Armed Conflict; all tailored to the specific needs and audiences of the schools. Major Nancy Guerin, NMI Gender Advisor, originally from 1st Canadian Division Headquarters in Kingston, plays a key role in delivering portions of this training.

“I am very happy with what we have been able to accomplish in the relatively short time NATO Mission Iraq has been here,” says Major Guerin. “We have been able to establish a strong network with many groups working on the gender portfolio in and around Baghdad. Even little things, like a simple pamphlet we developed, seem to have gone a long way in helping people grasp the significance of incorporating gender perspectives in their day-to-day activities.”
Almost all of the training and meetings take place outside of the military compound where NMI is headquartered. Attendance of all NMI personnel, regardless of country of origin, at essential meetings and courses simply could not happen without safe transportation and force protection measures. These services are provided by Canadians units.

The NMI Force Protection team is currently composed mainly of members from 1er Bataillon, Royal 22e Régiment; 12e Régiment blindé du Canada; and 5 Field Ambulance. They escort people using convoys of armoured SUVs and ensure personal safety on the scene.
The NMI Tactical Aviation Detachment is currently composed of aircraft and personnel mainly drawn from 438 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, with nearly half of the positions being filled with reservists. They provide air transport to NATO and coalition personnel and the associated equipment they require to carry out the mission.

End State

NMI’s end goal is a transition from foreigners training Iraqi troops to Iraqis training Iraqi troops where the Government of Iraq possesses a sustainable and effective defence program capable of maintaining effective and self-sufficient management of their training schools and educational institutions.

“Together with Iraqis, we will set the conditions for an enduring relationship between Iraq and NATO,” says Major-General Fortin. “This is critical, for Iraqis and for the rest of the world, to ensure that Daesh never succeeds in flourishing as they did the last time and that Iraq is in a position to support regional stability. Prevention is, and always will be, more helpful than intervention.”

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