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U.S. military members from the NATO Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, will be deploying to Iraq in the next few weeks as part of a planned larger force in the alliance’s Training and Implementation Mission.

NATO officials recently approved an operational plan for the mission that includes an increase in the number of forces in Iraq to between 200 and 300, with an undetermined number of additional troops for force protection.

The alliance initially deployed to Iraq in August and currently has about 60 military personnel from 10 nations.

“The secretary-general [Jaap de Hoop] said that he hopes to see this mission get off the ground in its larger sense before the end of the year, and so we will be working towards that time line,” said a NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

As part of this larger force, nearly 400 Army, Navy and Air Force JFC members finished two-days of predeployment processing at the Naval Support Activity Naples Capodichino base earlier this week.

JFC spokesman Giovanni Malafronte couldn’t say how many of them will be deploying to Iraq, nor give a date for the deployment of the Naples personnel.

“The NTM-I mission will begin when SACEUR [the supreme allied commander Europe, Marine Corps Gen. James Jones] issues the activation order,” Malafronte wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

One military member undergoing the predeployment processing said he expects that U.S. members who have more than a year left on their NATO tours will make at least one deployment to Iraq.

NATO’s Iraq mission is to help the country eventually provide for its own security. The provisional Iraqi government had asked NATO to help with training and had asked for other technical assistance.

The initial group of NATO personnel in Iraq came from JFC and the Joint Warfare Center in Stavanger, Norway. A team from the Naples NATO base has also deployed to Baghdad to develop infrastructure-related plans for the Iraqi military academy.

As well as providing training in Iraq, NATO has also trained members of the country’s security personnel in Europe.

In early November, 19 senior military officers and civilians from Iraq’s Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior took part in an eight-day course at Stavanger, focusing on areas such as crisis management, command and control of security forces, operation planning process, and civilian and military cooperation.

Others have received training at a NATO base in Oberammergau, Germany, according to the NATO official.

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