NATO accedes to US request to play larger role in Iraq  

2020/01/1578260108.jpg
Read: 447     16:21     13 February 2020    

ESPER PERSUADES NATO: Responding to pressure from the United States, NATO defense ministers have agreed “in principle” to take over more of the training and advising of Iraqi troops, so that the U.S. can begin to draw down its forces in Iraq.


The announcement followed a meeting at NATO headquarters in which U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper called on other nations to step up their efforts in Iraq, so the U.S. can realign its global forces to better counter Russia and China, which it sees as a bigger long-term threat than terrorism.

“Several allies, or all allies, actually, supported the decision to do more and also to take over some of the activities which is today conducted by the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking to reporters afterward. “The first step is to do more within the existing mandate, within the existing operational plan for our training mission in Iraq.”

NO DETAILS: Stoltenberg could not say how many more troops NATO might send, nor what countries would contribute, noting the agreement was “in principle,” and contingent on consultations with the Iraqi government.

“We are in close consultation with the Iraqi government on the possibility of expanding, scaling up, doing more,” Stoltenberg said. “I have spoken with the Prime Minister several times and we have staff-to-staff talks. And based on the decision today, we will then develop those options further.”

“We will only stay in Iraq as long as we are welcome, because we fully respect the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Iraq. So the only way for us to be there is based on invitation from the Iraqi government,” he added.

TALIBAN AGREEMENT EXPECTED: Stoltenberg says Esper also briefed the alliance on the current round of talks with the Taliban, which is expected to produce a second try at preliminary agreement aimed at achieving a partial ceasefire and paving the path for peace talks with the Afghan government.

“We welcome any step towards a reduction of violence in Afghanistan and we strongly support the peace process, any initiative to establish an intra-Afghan dialogue,” said Stoltenberg, who said the success of such an agreement would hinge on the Taliban keeping its word.

‘[The] Taliban has to show and demonstrate a real willingness, a real willingness and that they are capable of delivering reduction in violence, and Taliban has also to understand that they will never win on the battlefield, they have to make real compromises around the negotiating table.”

NO IMMINENT WITHDRAWAL: Speaking at the Atlantic Council Tuesday, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien hinted that an agreement was near, saying “Some good news could be forthcoming,” but also downplayed the idea that the U.S. would reduce its footprint in Afghanistan right away.

“I don’t think there’s any imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan,” O’Brien said, “There will have to be reduction in violence and meaningful inter-Afghan talks.”

LEAVING ONE WAY OR ANOTHER: Esper in several on-the-record interviews has said the U.S. has determined it has several thousand more troops in Afghanistan than it needs to carry out its twin missions of assisting the Afghan military and pursuing terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and and ISIS.

The U.S. has between 12,000 and 13,000 troops, and Esper has said he could reduce the force levels tomorrow if he wanted to. “You've heard that 8,600 number out there, that's one number that we've talked about,” he told reporters last month. “ I'm confident we can go to that number and not affect our mission.

In testimony before the Senate this week, retired Gen. Jack Keane, the former Army vice chief of staff, said he believes Esper and Gen. Scott Miller, the U.S. Afghanistan commander, are just waiting for the right time to announce the drawdown.

“General Miller has been working on the force reduction for some time based on his assessment that he had more forces than he needed to meet the mission requirement. And I believe that given the fact that negotiations were taking place, the administration made a logical decision not to unilaterally conduct that reduction and use that as leverage in the negotiations,” Keane said.

“But if there's not a settlement in those negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, I do think Secretary Esper is right, then we're likely to announce that reduction anyway because General Miller wants to get on with it. He doesn't want anybody to be in that country exposed unnecessarily to risk if he doesn't need them to accomplish the mission.”

Washington Examiner



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NATO accedes to US request to play larger role in Iraq  

2020/01/1578260108.jpg
Read: 448     16:21     13 February 2020    

ESPER PERSUADES NATO: Responding to pressure from the United States, NATO defense ministers have agreed “in principle” to take over more of the training and advising of Iraqi troops, so that the U.S. can begin to draw down its forces in Iraq.


The announcement followed a meeting at NATO headquarters in which U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper called on other nations to step up their efforts in Iraq, so the U.S. can realign its global forces to better counter Russia and China, which it sees as a bigger long-term threat than terrorism.

“Several allies, or all allies, actually, supported the decision to do more and also to take over some of the activities which is today conducted by the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking to reporters afterward. “The first step is to do more within the existing mandate, within the existing operational plan for our training mission in Iraq.”

NO DETAILS: Stoltenberg could not say how many more troops NATO might send, nor what countries would contribute, noting the agreement was “in principle,” and contingent on consultations with the Iraqi government.

“We are in close consultation with the Iraqi government on the possibility of expanding, scaling up, doing more,” Stoltenberg said. “I have spoken with the Prime Minister several times and we have staff-to-staff talks. And based on the decision today, we will then develop those options further.”

“We will only stay in Iraq as long as we are welcome, because we fully respect the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Iraq. So the only way for us to be there is based on invitation from the Iraqi government,” he added.

TALIBAN AGREEMENT EXPECTED: Stoltenberg says Esper also briefed the alliance on the current round of talks with the Taliban, which is expected to produce a second try at preliminary agreement aimed at achieving a partial ceasefire and paving the path for peace talks with the Afghan government.

“We welcome any step towards a reduction of violence in Afghanistan and we strongly support the peace process, any initiative to establish an intra-Afghan dialogue,” said Stoltenberg, who said the success of such an agreement would hinge on the Taliban keeping its word.

‘[The] Taliban has to show and demonstrate a real willingness, a real willingness and that they are capable of delivering reduction in violence, and Taliban has also to understand that they will never win on the battlefield, they have to make real compromises around the negotiating table.”

NO IMMINENT WITHDRAWAL: Speaking at the Atlantic Council Tuesday, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien hinted that an agreement was near, saying “Some good news could be forthcoming,” but also downplayed the idea that the U.S. would reduce its footprint in Afghanistan right away.

“I don’t think there’s any imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan,” O’Brien said, “There will have to be reduction in violence and meaningful inter-Afghan talks.”

LEAVING ONE WAY OR ANOTHER: Esper in several on-the-record interviews has said the U.S. has determined it has several thousand more troops in Afghanistan than it needs to carry out its twin missions of assisting the Afghan military and pursuing terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and and ISIS.

The U.S. has between 12,000 and 13,000 troops, and Esper has said he could reduce the force levels tomorrow if he wanted to. “You've heard that 8,600 number out there, that's one number that we've talked about,” he told reporters last month. “ I'm confident we can go to that number and not affect our mission.

In testimony before the Senate this week, retired Gen. Jack Keane, the former Army vice chief of staff, said he believes Esper and Gen. Scott Miller, the U.S. Afghanistan commander, are just waiting for the right time to announce the drawdown.

“General Miller has been working on the force reduction for some time based on his assessment that he had more forces than he needed to meet the mission requirement. And I believe that given the fact that negotiations were taking place, the administration made a logical decision not to unilaterally conduct that reduction and use that as leverage in the negotiations,” Keane said.

“But if there's not a settlement in those negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, I do think Secretary Esper is right, then we're likely to announce that reduction anyway because General Miller wants to get on with it. He doesn't want anybody to be in that country exposed unnecessarily to risk if he doesn't need them to accomplish the mission.”

Washington Examiner



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