Middle EastWar

Denmark to withdraw special forces from Iraq, but capacity-building contingent will stay

NATO-member Denmark said on Thursday, May 17 that special forces assigned to the U.S.-led Coalition against Islamic State will be withdrawn because the have completed their mission, but other troops in capacity-building and radar operation roles will remain.

“Special Operation Forces have completed the task of training and accompanying their Iraqi partner unit and will therefore be brought home,” the Danish Ministry of Defense said in a release.

The withdrawal will be gradual, and is expected to be completed in late autumn 2018.

In 2016, the Danish parliament voted to send up to 60 special forces and support personnel to Iraq to train and advise Iraqi soldiers and to support them by providing intelligence and calling in air strikes. The troops were also mandated to accompany Iraqi forces in operations in the Iraq-Syria border area.

“Our special operations forces are returning home after a successful effort,” Danish defense minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said. “Their Iraqi partners are now ready to stand on their own two feet.”

“We have now reached a point where we can begin withdrawing our special forces because [ISIS] no longer has control over large areas in Iraq,” foreign minister Anders Samuelsen said.

Danish Army, Al Asad, Iraq
Royal Danish Army Premierløjtnant Mads, a Coalition member attached to the Building Partner Capacity Team, Task Force Al Asad, adjusts the rifle position of an Iraqi Security Force member during an urban combat and tactics course at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, May 10, 2015. Image: US Marine Corps/Cpl. Cansin P. Hardyegritag

Samuelsen stressed that Denmark will continue to be engaged in the fight “in order to prevent the terrorist group from returning and to help ensure the Iraqi security forces can take care of security in their own country.”

“Denmark will continue to be part of the Coalition against [ISIS] with our training and radar contributions,” Defense Minister Frederiksen added.

In January, Denmark sent 30 additional troops to Iraq in a force protection role, bringing the total number deployed to around 180. They are stationed at the al-Asad air base in Anbar province, where they train and advise Iraqi forces. The personnel deployed include a medical and surgical team.

In addition, a Danish mobile radar unit is based at al-Asad along with up to 30 people, including operators at the al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.

There are also around 20 Danish staff at the Coalition’s headquarters.

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