Iraq’s approval of expanded NATO mission ‘very positive,’ Sajjan says

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OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is hailing the Iraqi government’s decision to let NATO stay in the country as a “very positive development,” weeks after Iraq’s legislators demanded foreign forces leave the country over the U.S. killing of Iran’s top general near the Baghdad airport.

But Sajjan says it’s too early to say when a Canadian-led NATO training mission in Iraq will resume.

The Iraqi government’s green-lighting of the training mission was announced today by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg as defence ministers from across the 29-member military alliance met in Brussels.

Stoltenberg also announced NATO would expand the mission, which includes around 250 Canadian military personnel, to incorporate some of the training that until now has been conducted by the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

While discussions of exactly what that expanded mission will look like continue, Sajjan suggests it will not result in any big changes or additional troops in the Canadian mission in Iraq in the short term.

NATO’s decision to expand its mission follows calls from U.S. President Donald Trump for the military alliance to do more in the Middle East.