Sweden may send troops to Iraq to counter ISIS threat

Swedish military (Reuters/Bob Strong)
Swedish Foreign Minister Margo Wallstrom said that Stockholm may send military personnel to Iraq. The troops would train soldiers to help Baghdad in its fight against Islamic State forces. The minister ruled out sending combat troops.

''We have seen the possibility of sending a smaller unit which could help train military personnel,'' Wallstrom said during a military conference in the Swedish resort of Salen on Sunday, according to Anadolu Agency.

Wallstrom did not specify the size of the potential deployment, but said the personnel would be sent exclusively to train Kurdish peshmerga forces. The Social Democratic minister noted that Germany would lead the training mission, and that Finnish troops would contribute as well.

“This would be an important contribution to show that we want to share responsibility for meeting a difficult threat...this contribution will not involve active combat," she told the Local.

READ MORE: Germany wants to send more troops to help Kurds fight ISIS

''And this is again because we need to be more effective in how we meet ISIL’s depredations,'' Wallstrom added. ''This is an effort which many EU countries have joined in different ways.''

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq requested military assistance to help combat the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in November.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margo Wallstrom. (Image from wikipedia.org/Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Denmark)

KRG intelligence chief Masoud Barzani asked the European Affairs Committee to provide peshmerga forces with weapons – including heavy artillery and helicopters – and for help evacuating the wounded from tents.

“We want people [peshmerga] to be trained today so they can, six months from now, use the sophisticated weapons if you give them to us,” he said. “We are asking you to help us train these people so they can be ready and equipped with weapons.”

Wallstrom announced that she will present the proposal to parliament, but did not say when the draft legislation would be ready.

Between 250 and 300 people are estimated to have left Sweden to join Islamic State militants in their effort to create a caliphate, resulting in mass carnage throughout the Middle East.

Last week, the leader of Sweden’s opposition Moderate Party, Anna Kinberg Batra, suggested the country consider joining NATO. Wallstrom, however, ruled out such a move. The ruling Social Democratic Party opposes NATO membership.

"I have not seen any arguments for NATO membership that are convincing," Wallstrom told Sweden's Expressen newspaper on Monday.

Last Friday, an opinion poll conducted by Swedish research company Ipsos revealed that support for NATO membership amongst Swedes has jumped from 28 percent in April 2014 to 33 percent in December. The lurch comes after Swedish military officials announced that a foreign submarine was operating illegally in Swedish waters back in October.