French military instructors have been training the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) to enhance its soldiers' capacity in executing high-level operations.
The Iraqi government signed an agreement with France on October 10th, 2017, for the French military to train the CTS in areas such as protecting the border, combating terror groups in Iraq's western desert and deactivating explosive ordnance.
Instructors from France's Task Force Narvik trained members of the CTS on finding and dealing with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) during a long-month training from January 22nd to February 17th.
Enhancing the CTS's capacity
"There are two levels of training that our soldiers receive at the Counter-Terrorism Academy in Baghdad," CTS spokesman Sabah al-Numan told Diyaruna.
The first involves basic physical and psychological training that prepares soldiers for the second level of training, he said.
The second level, taught by French and other international coalition instructors, involves "high-level combat training, aerial landing at specific targets, engagement with the enemy at close range, capturing the enemy and rescuing hostages", he said.
Soldiers also learn how to use advanced weapons and acquire the latest military techniques in special operations related to hunting down terror cells and surveilling their members, he added.
"The French trainers are imparting their deep expertise to our soldiers on an ongoing basis through organising capacity building and joint training sessions," he said.
"We share the same goal, which is to enhance the capacity of the CTS and help its members successfully execute the most difficult operations," he said.
The CTS was created to conduct special operations in the heart of enemy territory and hunt down and capture terrorists hiding in the desert and in residential areas, al-Numan said.
A CTS unit arrested a senior "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) operative via aerial landing in the Anbar desert over a week ago, he said.
The arrest was "a result of a high level quality operation by the CTS", he added.
Iraq and France share long standing historical ties and "excellent bilateral collaboration", al-Numan said, noting that during the battle to liberate Mosul, the French dedicated two reconnaissance aircraft to provide the CTS with precise intelligence on the movements of ISIS.
"They also collaborated with us on targeting several enemy hideouts with airstrikes," he said.
Following the liberation of cities from ISIS, the Iraqi government is now seeking to restructure and train its armed forces by relying on the expertise of other countries, including France, Iraqi PM Nayef al-Shimmari told Diyaruna.
The CTS played a key role in the liberation operations, he said, adding that "it is important to keep building their capacity in accordance with the [latest] development in military systems and plans".
"France is a large country with a strong army and any joint effort with it is an important gain for our forces," he said.
The collaboration with France is part of the Iraqi government's efforts to establish a new military force, the Airborne Forces, strategy expert Ahmed al-Sharifi told Diyaruna.
The new force will be affiliated with the CTS and will conduct high-level security operations, he said.
Al-Sharifi noted that creating such a force would require highly trained personnel who can employ "modern warfare tactics".
"France and other coalition countries will be able to help Iraq in this regard due to their strong expertise in aerial landing and surveilling militants," he said.