NATO Amps Up Anti-ISIS Mission After Trump’s Prodding

REUTERS/Helmiy al-Azawi (IRAQ) - RTR1RM3Y

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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NATO will step up its commitment to the fight against Islamic State by training Iraqi soldiers to disarm improvised explosive devices, the Wall Street Journal reports.

President Donald Trump indicated throughout the 2016 campaign his desire to see more NATO investment in anti-ISIS efforts. The Obama administration repeatedly tried to get NATO to up its commitment to the anti-ISIS mission. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter implored NATO to get more involved in the fight at the February 2016 annual meeting to no avail.

“This is a start, and then we will assess, work with allies and look at what more we can do,” NATO Secretary General Jans Stoltenberg told TheWSJ of the alliances decision to being training Iraqi soldiers. Stoltenberg’s comments come after repeated skepticism from NATO generals in late January that the alliance should be involved in counter-terrorism in the first place.

NATO’s military planners saw the decision to train Iraqi soldiers as a signal of their tentative commitment to the fight. Still, the alliance is only deploying 10-17 soldiers to Iraq, and will begin training only 30 Iraqi’s. The commitment is far from the previous U.S. request to NATO to use early warning planes over Syria.

Trump spoke with Stoltenberg Sunday in a wide-ranging phone call on Russian aggression in Ukraine, and Trump’s desire for other NATO allies to increase defense spending commitments. The alliance targets defense spending for countries at 2 percent of a member nation’s GDP. More than 20 countries in the alliance flout this defense spending target.

“I think the distribution of costs has to be changed. I think NATO as a concept is good, but it is not as good as it was when it first evolved,” Trump told The Washington Post in March 2016. Trump doubled down in a CNN interview the same day, saying, “frankly they have to put up more money. They’re going to have to put some up also. We’re paying disproportionately. It’s too much. And frankly it’s a different world than it was when we originally conceived of the idea.”

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