Middle East

Nato agrees plan to strengthen Iraqi army

A soldier walks past an Iraqi flag in Husaybah, in Anbar province July 22, 2015. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Iraqi army has suffered huge losses at the hand of Islamic State militants

Nato members have agreed measures to strengthen Iraq's security forces, which have suffered near-collapse in the face of an Islamic State offensive.

The alliance said the measures would focus on seven key areas including military training, cyber defence, and reforming the security sector.

The training will take place in Turkey and Jordan, Nato said in a statement.

Iraq has seen a surge in violence in the past year, with the highest monthly death toll in January for six years.

Jens Stoltenberg, Nato Secretary General, said the assistance program had been developed at Iraq's request and in close consultation with Iraqi authorities.

The programme will also develop Iraq's security sector, bomb disposal capabilities, military medicine, and civil military planning, Mr Stoltenberg said.

Nato will complement what is already being done by the US-led coalition against Islamic State, as well as actions by individual NATO allies, the European Union and the UN, he added.

President Barack Obama in June ordered the deployment of 450 more US troops to Iraq's Sunni heartland to advise and assist Iraqi forces, adding to the existing 3,100 US troops in the country.

The Nato agreement comes just a few days after Turkey sought Nato endorsement for its campaign against militants in Syria and Iraq.

The alliance previously had a team training Iraqi security forces but it was withdrawn at the end of 2011 when no agreement could be reached on the legal status of Nato troops in the country.

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