Dutch military contribution in Iraq
Dutch military personnel are supporting Iraqi forces on the ground with military training and advice. In addition, F-16s from the Royal Netherlands Air Force are active over Iraq and eastern Syria. This military support complements the political and humanitarian support the Netherlands is already providing in the international fight against the ISIS terrorist organisation.
In terms of both the political and military strategic situations, developments in Iraq and Syria have been occurring at a rapid pace, especially since November 2017. The training requirements are therefore also changing. For this reason, the number of Dutch mobile training teams in northern Iraq will be further reduced to one.
Instructors on the ground
To combat ISIS on the ground, Dutch military instructors are training members of the Iraqi armed forces. The training, which is being provided in northern Iraq, includes proficiency in the use of firearms, tactical action, military first aid and detecting and defusing roadside bombs.
In the context of Capacity Building Mission Iraq, Dutch military instructors trained a total of over 100,000 members of the Iraqi armed forces and Kurdish armed forces (Peshmerga). Since they have the basic level required, the anti-ISIS coalition is now providing a higher level of training.
Special operations forces
The deployment of special operations forces in northern Iraq will come to an end. Members of these elite units will, however, continue to train their Iraqi counterparts in Baghdad. Furthermore, two Dutch intelligence analysts will remain in northern Iraq to support their Belgian colleagues.
Until the spring of 2018, members of Dutch special operations forces and their Belgian counterparts constituted advice and assistance (A&A) teams that served in northern Iraq. They supported Iraqi and Kurdish armed forces before, during and after combat situations. The teams provided training and advice to units in close proximity to combat locations but did not participate in combat themselves.
Since early 2018, 4 Dutch F-16s have been contributing to the military defeat of ISIS in Iraq and eastern Syria. The support detachment consists of approximately 150 military personnel. A Belgian force-protection unit secures the Dutch F-16s and work locations.
From October 2014 to July 2016, the Netherlands supplied F-16s for airstrikes, at first over Iraq, later also over eastern Syria. The airstrikes disrupted ISIS supply lines and eliminated strategic ISIS locations, such as camps and fuel depots. The fighter aircraft also provided air support to ground troops.
The Air Task Force Middle East flew more than 2,100 missions, in which weapons were used over 1,800 times. This involved bombardments with precision ammunition. Belgium continued the F-16 airstrikes until the end of April 2017. Dutch military personnel secured the Belgian detachment during this period.
In 2018, the Netherlands armed forces are also providing surgical teams for the US role 2 hospital at Al Asad Airbase near Baghdad, via the Institute for Defence and Partnership Hospitals. A role 2 hospital is a hospital with surgical capacity and limited intensive care capacity.
American command and control
Good coordination of the mission is essential, owing to the fact that there are a large number of countries taking part. Several Dutch personnel have been deployed at diplomatic and military level to this end. The operation is conducted on the basis of the American command and control structure. In addition, Dutch staff and liaison officers have been posted to operational headquarters in the United States, Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The Netherlands is therefore involved in the detail of the planning process.