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.
Dutch military personnel are training regular military personnel and special forces. The training programmes focus on skills such as marksmanship, tactical operations, military first aid and counter-IED. There is also a mobile training team that focus on training smaller groups in preparation for specific operations. Where necessary, training is given close to the front line. Dutch military personnel are not involved in the fighting on the ground.
Since February 2015, Dutch trainers have trained more than 100,000 Iraqi soldiers, including members of the Kurdish forces (Peshmerga). As they have the basic level required, the anti-ISIS coalition trains them to a higher level.
Advise and assist (will stop soon)
Dutch special forces form A&A teams together with their Belgian colleagues. They assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces before, during and after combat situations with, for example, operational planning, leadership, coordinating fire support, and analysing and processing experience gained during operations. The teams give training and advice to units in close proximity to combat locations, but do not participate in combat themselves.
The teams are equipped with armoured vehicles and other protective assets, which is necessary in areas where the threat posed by IEDs and enemy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), for example, is relatively high. The A&A teams follow the combat engagements using UAVs, which enables them to better assist the Iraqi units. The teams also monitor their own security situation using these UAV systems.
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.