Spain to send 300 troops to Iraq

Spain will send some 300 troops to Iraq on a two-month mission to train the country's army, as part of its contribution to the US-led international coalition against jihadis of the Islamic State (IS), the country's defence ministry said Friday.

Madrid: Spain will send some 300 troops to Iraq on a two-month mission to train the country's army, as part of its contribution to the US-led international coalition against jihadis of the Islamic State (IS), the country's defence ministry said Friday.

Defence Minister Pedro Morenes said the government has agreed on the move, which was yet to be approved by parliament.

Spain would also offer to increase the capacity of its air bases to respond to the needs of the US Central Command, in a decision which was provided for by the existing agreement between Washington and Madrid and did not require parliamentary approval, he added.

Morenes stressed that the Spanish mission to Iraq "excludes direct combat" and explained that the troops will cooperate with Italy to train and instruct a brigade of the Iraqi Army during seven or eight weeks.

The training will focus on the use of explosive artifacts and on mine de-activation, as well as on special operations, a task already taken up by Spain's armed forces in Mali and the Central African Republic.

The 300 troops will include 69 members of a protection force, 60 instructors integrated in three teams and 10 assigned to command and intelligence management.

The rest will back up the security and training tasks, Morenes said.

The minister said he would travel next week to Tampa, headquarters of the US Central Command in Florida to meet with US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, before defining the Spanish contribution.

Morenes added that the role of the international coalition in Iraq "is not only to stop the advance of the Islamic State, but also to provide the country with the structure of a state and guarantee the security of its citizens".

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