Dutch military contribution in Iraq

The Netherlands is contributing to the international fight against the ISIS terrorist network by providing military as well as political and humanitarian support. For example, Dutch military personnel support Iraqi forces on the ground with military training and advice. The Netherlands is also participating in the new NATO capacity building mission in Iraq.

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 the coalition’s Capacity-Building Mission Iraq, Dutch military instructors have already trained a total of over 100,000 members of the Iraqi armed forces and Kurdish armed forces (Peshmerga). Since these forces have achieved the basic level required, the anti-ISIS coalition is now providing a higher level of training.

Capacity building mission

The Netherlands has contributed 2 military advisers and 4 civilian experts to NATO’s capacity building mission. Their number may increase up to 20. The objective of this mission is to strengthen the Iraqi security sector. This is achieved through training and advice to, amongst others, the Iraqi ministry of Defence and military academies. The mission totals approximately 600 personnel, working from the coalition’s secure training locations in Baghdad and 2 sub-sites in Basmaya and Taji in central Iraq.

Special operations forces

Until the spring of 2018, members of the 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 they did not participate in combat themselves.

F-16s for air campaign

In collaboration with other countries, Dutch F-16s flew over Iraq and eastern Syria almost daily since early 2018. They supported troops on the ground and they regularly deployed their weapons, particularly in eastern Syria. They attacked ISIS targets such as vehicles, logistics depots and weapon positions.

The support detachment consisted of approximately 150 military personnel. The F-16 mission ended on 31 December 2018 because the Netherlands requires units for a number of rapid reaction forces and for NATO. This will also allow for the transition to F-35s.

Surgical team

In 2018, the Netherlands armed forces also provided a surgical team 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. The team of 10 is important to the mission because the coalition countries have very limited medical 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 the diplomatic and military levels 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.