Ministry of Defence

NATO ends its training mission in Iraq

The war in Iraq began in 2003 with the aim of overthrowing the dictator Saddam Hussein. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, there were 170 thousand military troops deployed by allied nations and partner countries from more than 35 countries (USA deployed 143 thousand troops, 4100 troops were deployed by Britain, 600 troops by Romania, 300 troops by Australia, 200 troops by Salvador, 155 troops by Bulgaria, 55 troops by Denmark, 53 troops by Lithuania, 38 troops by Estonia, 70-215 troops by Albania). In Operation Iraqi Freedom, within the coalition war against terrorism, 500 military bases were operating throughout Iraq, but in 2008 they began to be reduced. Less than 3 thousand U.S. and NATO troops started to operate, being engaged in “NATO Training Mission”, which served to rebuild, support and train troops and headquarters of the Iraqi Army.

Within the coalition forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom on 14 April 2003, the Republic of Albania joined the coalition of the allied and partner countries by engaging the first Peace keeping contingent from “Commando” Regiment, the elite troops of the Armed Forces. Participation in this operation was made possible by the Law No. 9025, dated 13.03.2003, “On the availability of space, land, sea and air and sending Albanian military forces in the Persian Gulf region (Iraq), within the international coalition to fight terrorism”.

For more than two years, from the first contingent up to the fourth one consisted of one company. From the fifth contingent up to the twelve one, the contribution was increased by 50 troops, numbering more than 120 soldiers stationed at Mosul airport. They are completely engaged in maintaining Mares base and its Northern gate, located at the Eastern Mares and Victoria base, Baghdad. Besides the contingent of 120 soldiers, on September 7th  2008, the Armed Forces increased the level of engagement in Iraq, by sending an additional contingent of 95 soldiers from the Special Forces Battalion which operated in Baghdad.

On completion of the Coalition Operation Iraqi Freedom, and with the reduction of the Coalition Forces, the Armed Forces withdrew from Iraq; respectively form Mosul region, on 23 December 2008 and from Baghdad region on 20 December 2008. In this operation, our contingents have had their area of responsibility in order to maintain and secure Mosul airport and respective bases. In order to accomplish the mission, patrols checked the area on foot and vehicles, services at checkpoints were set up to avoid the penetration of terrorist elements. Albanian troops’ leave from Iraq was followed with gratitude from the Allied forces, which organized in Mosul and Baghdad special farewell ceremonies for our soldiers, who served in the East front. Regarding the Albanian contingents, positive assessment has been continuously given by the American authorities concerning capacities, accuracy in performing duties, discipline and knowledge of the application of rules of engagement in  mission.

According to General Austin, the head of the U.S. military forces in Iraq at that time, our Armed Forces have got a skilful army, capable to face not only such tasks, but even more. He honoured all the Albanian military contingents that gave their contribution in Iraq and stressed that: “U.S. has many excellent friends in Albania and the Albanians have revealed through actions that they support our actions to bring stability and security in Iraq. We are very thankful to Albanians for providing a protective force to Mares base, Mosul airport and multinational force. I want to thank the Albanian people and their government for the excellent service toward Iraq and the Coalition. You have brought security and hope for the Iraqi people, - said General Austin, the chief of Allied forces in Iraq.
Former U.S. President George Bush, in December 2008, expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the contribution given by the Armed Forces of the Republic of Albania, during the five-year mission of the coalition Operation ‘Iraqi Freedom’. Furthermore he stated: “Now that the Albanian military forces complete their mission in Iraq, I wish to express the deep gratitude of the United States towards the Albanian people and their government for their troop’s contribution to the International Force in Iraq from April 2003 to December 2008.”

“The people of Albania should be proud of its successful participation in supporting Iraq to win its freedom. We are looking forward to serving together with future Albanian contingents in defence of freedom. Our common experience in Iraq is the best example of how partnership between our countries has been strengthened in the recent years”, by expressing optimism for Albania’s ties to be stronger by increasing its cooperation with the U.S. government while holding its place in NATO.

On completion of Operation Iraqi Freedom, another NATO led operation encoded “NATO Training Mission”, started. For more than 3 years it best served in rebuilding, supporting and training Iraqi troops and its army headquarters. Even in this training NATO mission consisting of 120 military members form different countries, our country was also participant with two military members, in four rotations, since 22 March 2010.

Despite the aim of NATO training mission to help the country in developing the security forces, it was over on 20 December 2011, and the agreement with the current Iraqi government failed. Nevertheless, the future of Iraqi security forces will continue on the right track, because it is the government and the people which decide to walk straight ahead and work together. There exist possibilities for them to become leaders of the region, on condition that they make the best of them. We hope things will become better”, said the former last commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.

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