- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2017

NATO members on Thursday ruled out the possibility of deploying combat troops from the alliance to Iraq or Syria, in support of the U.S.-led coalition battling to oust the Islamic State terror group from both countries.

‘[It] is absolutely out of the question for NATO to go into combat operations,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, regarding possible options for the alliance to back ongoing operations against the group known as ISIS or ISIL.

Roughly over 5,000 U.S. troops are on the ground in Iraq, providing artillery and air support for Iraqi and Kurdish troops and advising those forces as they advance on ISIS territory in the country.

Short of sending NATO troops into harm’s way in the Mideast, alliance members are weighing other options to back U.S., Iraqi and Syrian forces engaged in the ISIS fight, he told reporters at the organization’s headquarters in Brussels.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford is in Brussels for a ministerial focusing on the U.S. and NATO military footprint in Afghanistan, and the coalition’s ongoing operations in the country.

Mr. Stoltenberg did not provide details as to what, if any, support the alliance could provide in the war against ISIS.

“No decision has been taken [but] the discussion is going on,” the NATO chief told The Associated Press.

His comments come a day after NATO Military Committee head Gen. Petr Pavel suggested the alliance could bring an additional military presence to the anti-ISIS coalition.

“There is a merit for NATO becoming a member of that coalition,” Gen. Pavel said after Wednesday’s ministerial meetings.

NATO can and should do more,” to bring about the defeat of ISIS, noting the alliance’s forces could be used to train and advise Iraqi forces after Islamic State is driven from the country.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and U.S. officials in Baghdad are attempting to broker a new status of forces agreement, or SOFA, for Iraq. The deal would outline the legal and diplomatic parameters underpinning a long-term U.S. military presence in the country, once ISIS is defeated.

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